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Indian Church officials hail Prime Minister Modi’s turnaround on farm laws

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After more than a year of relentless protests against 3 controversial Indian government farm laws, Prime Minister Narendra recently announced their repeal. Analysts interpret the U-turn as a move to increase the chances of his BJP party in the next election.

By Vatican News reporter

Indian Catholic Church officials hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modis’ announcement to repeal 3 controversial farm laws that forced farmers to stage one of the country’s longest public protests in which nearly 700 farmers died.

According to Bishop Alex Vadakumthala of Kannur, chairman of the Labor Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), this is truly a very welcome decision in the interest of farmers and the nation as a whole. ” .

The perseverance of the peasants won the day. If the government was not adamant and consulted with farmers before enacting these laws, the inconvenience to farmers could have been avoided, he told UCA News, adding: Our farmers are our backbone.

turn around

In a surprise television announcement on November 19, the anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, Modi said the laws would be repealed during the winter parliamentary session that begins on November 29. Many farmers in the Punjabi are Sikhs.

The prime minister said the laws were enacted for the welfare of farmers, but added: We have not been able to explain to our farmers. Now is not the time to blame anyone.

Modis’ announcement came as farmers planned to step up their protest from November 26 to mark the anniversary of their protest. Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organization of 40 agricultural unions that led the protest, welcomed Modi’s announcement.

700 farmers’ lives lost in protests

Indian Farmer Agitation 20202021 is an ongoing protest against three agricultural laws that were passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020: Lo Services Act and Essential Products Act (Amendment) introduced in November 2021.

Farmers’ unions responded by organizing local protests, mainly in the Punjab. After two months of protests, unions, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have launched a movement to march towards the Indian capital, Delhi. The government ordered police and security forces to attack protesters using water cannons, batons and tear gas to prevent farmers’ unions from entering Haryana state first. , then in Delhi. Farmers have since protested in New Delhi even after police blocked roads and cut power and water to their tents.

There has been a nationwide stay order on farm laws since January 2021. During the year-long protest, nearly 700 farmers are believed to have died from reasons such as violence and suicide.

The government should consider compensating the families of deceased farmers, such as in the event of a natural disaster or epidemic, Bishop Vadakumthala told UCA News.

Ill-advised laws

Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur, chairman of the CBCI’s Justice, Peace and Development Commission, said the government’s failure to conduct a comprehensive study before enacting the laws created problems.

Many farmer unions have described Modis laws as “anti-farmer laws”, and opposition politicians say they would leave farmers at “the mercy of the corporations”. Farmers also demanded the creation of a minimum support price (MSP) invoice, to ensure that companies cannot control prices.

Farmers only receive a benefit when there is a fixed rate for their crops and only the government can guarantee it, Bishop Almeida told UCA News. The government has promised to double the income of farmers with these laws, but has done nothing but raise the prices of fertilizers and other means that farmers need for farming. He described the laws as a blow to small and marginal farmers, and even medium-sized farmers were hit hard, as private parties rarely offered farmers a fixed rate.

Farmers also demand a legal guarantee of remunerative prices for all agricultural products and for all farmers. The farmers had vowed to continue their protest as long as Modi remained in power and refused to accept any compromise other than repealing the laws. It’s better now than ever, said Bishop Almeida, welcoming Modis’ announcement.

An electoral gesture

According to Bishop Almeida, the upcoming parliamentary elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, among other states, could be the reason for the sudden change of government.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with over 220 million people, is a stronghold of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Modis party (BJP), but opinion polls ahead of the poll indicate a loss of more than 100 seats to the party. The Punjab, the only Sikh-dominated state, has not even allowed BJP party leaders to run public programs. (Source: UCA News)

Sources

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2/ https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2021-11/india-catholic-church-bishops-welcome-modi-repeal-farm-laws.html

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