New Delhi, India – Tens of thousands of farmers are protesting across India a year of their protest against three controversial farm laws, despite the announcement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be repealed.
In one amazing rotation Ahead of the crucial elections in key states, Modik said last Friday that the laws would be repealed when the Indian Parliament meets this month. Although the farmers ’unions welcomed the move, they decided not to end the protest until the law was formally withdrawn.
The Modi government passed three conflicting laws September 2020, saying that they had “modernized” agriculture. The government claimed that the legislation would benefit farmers by increasing their income and giving them more opportunities to sell their products.
But farmers ’unions said the laws would allow some private corporations to control India’s vast agricultural sector and deny producers the government-guaranteed minimum aid price (MSP) for their products.
In November last year, hundreds of thousands of farmers – most of them grain belts from the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh – set out for New Delhi to demand the repeal of farm laws. When they stopped entering the national capital, they camped on three main highways leading to the city. Since then, they have not left the sites.
Farmers will hold tractor rallies and other events across the country on Friday, ignoring Modik’s call to return to their homes.
“Right now it’s not about losing or winning anyone. But this government has gone to negotiations now, ”Bhartiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers Union) leader Rakesh Tikait Al Jazeera said earlier this week.
“The day this government comes to the table with a pure heart, we will find a solution that day.”
‘We don’t trust this man’
Earlier this week, Al Jazeera visited a small group of farmers at a major protest site in Ghazipur, just outside the capital New Delhi, reading and discussing news from Hindi-language newspapers.
Rejecting Modi’s appeal to return to their homes, the disturbed farmers have decided to stand still until Parliament has formally repealed the law.
“We do not trust this man,” said Abdesh Kumar Jha, an 87-year-old farmer from the Madhubani district of Bihar, who went to Ghazipur in February to protest.
“Modi is not a king and his words cannot automatically become law. We are a democracy and not a monarchy. As these laws were passed in parliament, we want them to be repealed in parliament in the same way, ”Jha said while others said yes.
On Monday, thousands of farmers gathered in Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, where elections are scheduled for early next year. In the polls, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to retain power.
Tikait, an influential farmer leader in western Uttar Pradesh, said if the Modi government does not agree with their demands, they will campaign against the party in the upcoming elections.
“If this government does not listen to us, we will oppose those areas where it has gained political power. Why shouldn’t we campaign against this government if it doesn’t support our demands? ”
In addition to the MSP law, farmers want the government to withdraw the draft electricity bill, which would lead to the removal of the free or subsidized power they use for irrigation, especially for irrigation.
They are also demanding compensation for the families of nearly 700 farmers who lost their lives in the year-long protest, according to several farmers ’unions.
They also want the government to remove fines and other penalties for burning stems after harvesting. Smoke has become a major source of air pollution in popular satellites bordering New Delhi and crop-growing northern states.
“In our crops they have to give us a guaranteed MSP. Who will compensate the families of the more than 700 farmers we lost in the protest. Who will take care of the family? These are the issues that need to be addressed first, ”Jha told Al Jazeera.
“We’re not going anywhere unless we fix our problems.”
Kishan Singh, 74, agreed with Jha of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, saying, “If this government and this prime minister do not accept all our demands and we do not return to our homes.”
Singh said Modik had decided to repeal the law because of the upcoming state elections.
“They [BJP] want votes. They don’t love the farmers of the country or the people there. They need votes and that is why they have decided to repeal these laws, ”he told Al Jazeera, and in the last two elections he voted in favor of the party, but now regrets the decision.
“They betrayed us. Modik promised to double the income of farmers and talked about increasing the crop MSP when he was Gujarat’s prime minister. What happened to those promises? ‘ asked Singh.
Al Jazeera contacted a BJP spokesman, but he declined to comment on the matter.
Gilles Verniers, a columnist and political scientist at Ashoka University outside New Delhi, told Al Jazeera that the timing of Modi’s announcement made it clear that the decision to repeal the farm laws was “driven by electoral accounts”.
“But the unusual nature of this decision suggests that it could have been taken for other reasons. On the one hand, the farmers ’protest has become a symbol of India’s democratic decline, and they have contributed significantly to the deterioration of the prime minister’s image abroad,” he said.
“Secondly, until the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal the law resolved the dispute with the farmers, along with the decision to oppose these laws, it made their implementation very difficult.”
Verniers said there is “deep mistrust” among farmers against the Modi government.
“Repealing farm laws was key to farmers’ demands but not their only aspect. The problems of agriculture remain as significant as ever and farmers still expect the state to intervene to help them. ”