Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeals controversial farm laws

Narendra Modi’s decision to repeal the controversial farm laws is both a strategic and political move and a belated admission of the government’s haste and arrogance. The laws had sparked an unprecedented storm of protests in the states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. and it was a real challenge for Modi. They mobilized farmers and civil society in the Sikh-majority Punjab and spread to parts of Uttar Pradesh, states in which key elections will be held early next year. The BJP, which had not anticipated such a pullback, has been trying to placate the Sikhs. Much of their executive meeting earlier this month was devoted to appeasing community sentiments: increasing the farm budget and crop prices, reopening a historic corridor to one of the holiest shrines of Sikhism in Pakistan, a new investigation to punish the culprits of 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. The government was clearly getting nervous about the growing alienation of the Sikh community from the laws. The story contains grim lessons in Punjab, a strategic border state: A violent separatist movement in the 1980s was fueled by a similar distancing from the community. By repealing the laws, Modi hopes to regain the trust of farmers in general and Sikhs in particular. It would increase the BJP’s chances in the polls. As for those who had supported the reforms, it is again a healthy lesson that good economics often leads to bad policy.

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