India: Modi announces farm protection law repeal

Image copyright REUTERS Image caption The BJP was elected for a third term in Uttar Pradesh in 2017

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that he will repeal two controversial farm protection laws in the aftermath of a major protest.

Organisers said as many as 400,000 people joined the protests across the country over the weekend.

But the government says that it is consulting farmers and hearing their complaints.

A previous bill granting debt relief and insurance was challenged by the constitutional court.

Mr Modi said in a tweet that he had decided to “eliminate one of the most contentious aspects of the Act”.

He was referring to the National Agriculture Producers’ Guarantee Act, which was championed by Congress as the successor to the Nalanda Pact, which had been signed by then-premier Jawaharlal Nehru and Maoist rebel leaders.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Hundreds of thousands of farmers took to the streets during a mass protest in Kolkata

The protesters in western Kolkata, in southern Tamil Nadu state and in other places made demands including farm debt relief, an improved minimum support price (MSP) for crops and universal insurance.

Image copyright PTI Image caption Violence in Kolkata between farmers and police has raised questions about the implementation of the law

Mr Modi is putting together a new “India 2022” development plan following national elections in 2014 and a bruising defeat for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in state elections last year.

“The government is engaged with stakeholders to find the best and most durable resolution to a common national perception, through a realistic approach,” the government said in a statement on Sunday.

The twin protests have raised fears over how the government will implement the legislation.

Money has been spent on several pilot projects related to the legislation, but the opposition says this has not been sufficient to achieve even a small farmers’ benefit.

“No one is withdrawing the support schemes announced recently but the centre may have to reintroduce it when the 2019 elections approach,” said Jai Phatak, a ruling BJP party leader in rural state Uttar Pradesh.

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