India’s governing BJP says ‘no question’ of repealing farm laws

Modi’s party for the first time makes clear the government’s refusal to back down as farmers continue month-long protests.

Farmers and members of various agricultural organisations protest against new farm laws in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party says there is no question of the government repealing the new agriculture laws fiercely opposed by farmers who are worried deregulation will reduce their incomes.

“There’s no question of repealing from the government’s side. We have ample support from many farmers’ organisations,” Gopal Krishna Agarwal, spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday, for the first time making clear the government’s refusal to back down.

“Without private investments, agriculture income won’t be able to grow,” he said.

Tens of thousands of protesters have camped out on the outskirts of New Delhi and blocked national highways for more than three weeks to protest against three farm laws passed in September – the most sweeping changes to the sector in decades.

The government said the laws would increase farmers’ income through more private investments. It aims to link potential bulk buyers, such as Walmart Inc, Reliance Industries Ltd and Adani Enterprises Ltd, directly with farmers, bypassing government-regulated wholesale markets and layers of commission agents.

Earlier on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar appealed to the protesting farmers to hold further talks. “We assure our farmers that we’ll listen to them with an open mind,” Tomar told reporters.

The government has offered to amend the laws, including by giving a written assurance that the farmers will continue to get a guaranteed minimum price for grains, including rice and wheat at state-controlled wholesale markets.

The farmers, however, want the laws scrapped as their protests resonate around the world.

Urging India’s diaspora to help the government to convince farmers, Tomar said the policy changes would make agriculture more attractive for farmers.

The protesters have received support from overseas Indians mainly from the state of Punjab, who have organised demonstrations in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

“Farmers have decided they won’t go back till the government takes back all three farm laws,” said Rakesh Tikait, spokesman for Bhartiya Kisan Union, one of more than 30 protesting unions of farmers.

“It will take more than a month to resolve all issues.”

Source: Reuters