India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a surprise announcement on Friday that he will withdraw three controversial farm laws that prompted several protests from farmers over the last year.
In his biggest policy reversal yet, Modi noted that the laws were passed with good intentions, yet their failure to convince farmers have led them to scrap the policies.
“We tried our best to explain to farmers,” said Modi in a nationwide address. “In view of this, we are repealing the farm laws.”
“I urge farmers to return to their homes, their farms and their families, and I also request them to start afresh,” Modi added, referring to thousands of protesting farmers that have camped out around major roads in the Indian capital New Delhi.
The decision came ahead of elections next year in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh and two other provinces where farmers are major voting blocs.
“It’s a very un-Modi-like act to take back a decision. And it is obviously because of the elections,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based political analyst, noting that the administration had kept the farmers protesting for a year.
The controversial legislation was aimed at reforming the farming sector by allowing farmers to pit prices against large players such as agribusinesses and supermarkets. Prior to the law, farmers sold majority of their produce under a government-controlled wholesale market to protect them from losing out to larger firms.
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