This Article is From Dec 25, 2021

"Moved Step Back, Will Move Forward Again": Agriculture Minister On Farm Laws

Last month Prime Minister Narendra Modi - in a stunning announcement just three months before elections in UP and Punjab - said the farm laws would be withdrawn

Farmers and opposition parties had protested the centre's farm laws since November 2020

Nagpur, Maharashtra:

The three farm laws - withdrawn by the government last month after they sparked furious (and sometimes violent) protests nationwide by lakhs of farmers - could be re-introduced at a later date, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at an event in Maharashtra yesterday.

Mr Tomar blamed "some people" for the scrapping of the controversial laws - repealed in Parliament with the same lack of debate and discussion that heralded its passing - and then seemed to suggest that all three "black" laws - as they were called by its critics - could re-appear at a later date.

"We brought the agriculture amendment laws. But some people did not like these laws, which, after 70 years after Independence, were a big reform under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership," the Agriculture Minister was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

"But the government is not disappointed... we moved a step back and we will move forward again because farmers are India's backbone," he said, according to PTI.

Two days before it scrapped the farm laws, the government issued a note on 'Objects and Reasons'.

The note, signed by Mr Tomar and released to members of Parliament, blamed a group of farmers for standing in the way of "the endeavour to improve the condition of farmers...", and said the government "tried hard to sensitise farmers on the importance of the farm laws".

Last month Prime Minister Modi - in a stunning announcement just three months before elections in UP and Punjab (where farmers' votes are key) - said the three farm laws would be withdrawn.

The government's surprising U-turn - after senior figures, including the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister, spent months verbally attacking the protesting farmers and defending the three laws - raised questions from the opposition, who pointed to elections on the horizon.


Lakhs of farmers across the country had protested the centre's "black farm laws" (File)

As part of the protest, thousands of farmers from Punjab and UP (as well as Haryana and Rajasthan) had camped on the Delhi borders since November last year. The BJP - in power at the centre and in UP, and hoping to oust the Congress from Punjab - faced massive anger from voters in these states.

Violent clashes with security forces - in which they were ordered to "crack farmers' heads" and incidents like Lakhimpur Kheri - in which four farmers were run over by a convoy of allegedly led by Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son - added to the party's image crisis.

The rollback was, therefore, seen as politically key, particularly with a general election due in 2024, and triggered speculation from critics and the opposition that the BJP might try to resuscitate the farm laws after this round of elections - assuming, of course, it has the political capital to do so.

Farmers protested against the farm laws because they believed it would leave them at the mercy of large corporate firms because of the shift to contract-based farming and the lack, they said, of government oversight on these contracts. The government had offered assurances against these concerns but the farmers remained firm in their demand for the laws to be scrapped.

With input from PTI