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Indian parliament passes bill to repeal controversial farm laws

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NEW DELHI, November 29 (Reuters) – India’s parliament on Monday passed a bill to repeal three laws aimed at deregulating agricultural markets, yielding to pressure from farmers who have been protesting for more than a year to demand that the laws be canceled.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration introduced farm bills last year through an executive order, traditionally reserved for emergency legislation, triggering the longest protest by Indian farmers. Parliament then passed the legislation by voice vote, sparking widespread criticism that it had rushed the laws through without proper debate.

In a bid to end protests ahead of the assembly elections in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh early next year, Modi said this month that his government would repeal the laws at the new session of parliament. Read more

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As parliament convened for its winter session on Monday, the lower and upper houses passed the bill to withdraw laws aimed at deregulating and opening up agricultural markets for businesses. Farmers said the laws would give them little bargaining power against big private buyers.

The controversial laws have seen tens of thousands of people, including many elderly producers and women farmers, brave extreme weather conditions and a second severe wave of coronavirus infections to camp on the outskirts of New Delhi in the past year.

Farmers gather to mark the first anniversary of their protests on the outskirts of Delhi in Pakora Chowk near the border in Tikri, India on November 26, 2021. REUTERS / Anushree Fadnavis

In addition to their repeal demand, the protesting farmers are also calling on the Modi administration to introduce a law to guarantee government prices for products other than rice and wheat. Read more

The government currently buys rice and wheat at state-set Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), but the subsidies only benefit about 6% of the millions of Indian farmers.

Protesters are demanding MSPs for all crops – a move that galvanized producers across the country and pushed the protest beyond the Indian grain states of Punjab and Haryana.

The government has yet to comment on the demand from the MSP protesters.

Farmers celebrated the development, but said the protest would only be canceled when the government promised PSM legislation for all products. Read more

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Written by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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