Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Friday announcement about the rollback of the three contentious farm laws came on the day of Guru Nanak Jayanti - a day which holds significant symbolic value for farmers across the states of Haryana and Punjab.
These three farm laws were announced by the government with much fanfare and were dubbed as the game-changer for the entire agricultural sector. But ever since these bills were passed, farmers and the government have been at loggerheads with each other.
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This decision of the government holds value as this comes ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections and the agriculture sector plays a very decisive role in determining the electoral outcome in the country as well as in the state. Ever since these laws have been passed, the farmers have been protesting at Delhi borders since September 2020 with the demand that the government repeal the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
According to the government, these farm laws were seen as a crucial step for pulling farmers out of years-old antiquated agricultural practices. Since these game-changer laws have been repealed, it can be argued that all the benefits promised by the government have been undone in one stroke.
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For instance, Prime Minister Modi in one of his Mann Ki Baat programmes hailed the new laws as being revolutionary. He added that these three laws enacted by the Centre have provided independence to farmers and guaranteed them several new rights and opportunities.
Also, the importance of these farm laws has been underscored time and again. Experts have argued how the new laws were also said to bring in supply chain modernisation, farm gate buyer access and technology intervention for the farmers as well as logistics alike. So the much-needed resolution for logistical challenges for the farming sector will remain on hold after this roll back. These three farm laws were also expected to improve the market efficiency and agricultural productivity, but today, the roll back will be a dampener for improving the market efficiency and agricultural productivity.
The government also exhorted that these laws will provide market access and will provide farmers with an alternative for selling their produce outside mandis and without attracting any tax. This roll back, therefore, is a big blow to the free market access as promised by these farm laws.
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Another benefit of the farm laws as explained by the government was to facilitate remunerative prices for farmers through competitive alternative trading channels but this announcement of rolling these laws back is a setback to all the perks offered by the laws to the farmers.
With the repeal of these laws, the long impending demand of the farmers sitting on the protest since last 2 years is fulfilled but farm leader Rakesh Tikait made this clear that this rollback will not mark an end of the protest, the battle to get MSP would continue till the government makes it a legal right for the farmers.
The repeal of these laws by the government is a big win for farmers, who carried out one of longest protests across the country. With the rollback of this reform, the farmers did lose so many promised changes, but this major policy U-turn by PM Modi is a dent on his strongman image as well. But time will tell, what impact this decision will have on farmers and on poll-bound states next year.
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