India’s parliament passes bill officially repeals controversial farm laws after year of protests

India’s parliament passes bill officially repeals controversial farm laws after year of protests
·2 min read

The Indian parliament has officially repealed the controversial farm laws that triggered the longest-running protest in the country, forcing the Narendra Modi government to agree to the demands of farmers.

The Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021 was introduced on Monday, days after Mr Modi surprisingly announced he was halting the proposed reforms because his government was “not able to convince farmers”.

The unpopular reforms were mired in controversy even as they were being scrapped, as they were repealed without any discussion in parliament.

After the bill was introduced in the BJP-controlled Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament, opposition parties began protesting there would be no time allotted for discussion. The bill to repeal was subsequently passed within four minutes.

In the upper house, the Rajya Sabha, the bill was passed after a quick discussion. It will now be sent to the president for final approval.

Members from the opposition labelled the hasty passage of the new bill “undemocratic” as they drew parallels with the way the controversial bills were first introduced in September 2020.

“Earlier, we had said that the govt [government] will have to withdraw the farm laws, and today these laws were repealed. It is unfortunate that the farm laws were repealed without discussion. This government is scared of holding a discussion,” Rahul Gandhi, a member of the Lok Sabha and former president of opposition Indian National Congress (INC) told Indian media outlets outside parliament.

“Passed without discussion; repealed without discussion. A new model of democracy for a new India,” wrote Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The farm bills, brought in with the ambitious goal of overhauling India’s agriculture economy, raced through both the houses of the parliament with little to no scrutiny.

The laws were designed to open up farming to the private sector, and the government described them as a necessary step to modernise a heavily subsidised system that is no longer fit for purpose.

Farmers, however, feared the measures would leave them open to exploitation by big corporations close to the current government.

The decision was met with strong protests as the bills were largely dubbed “anti-farmer” and resulted in a year-long protest, during which more than 700 deaths were reported.

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