The Indian farmers’ protest will come to an end a week after the government agreed to abandon controversial agricultural reforms.
Among thousands of farmers camped at the borders of the capital, Delhi, about dozens died due to heat, cold and Covid. And now they are planning to return to their homes from Saturday.
This protest became one of the biggest challenges faced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Their decision to return came after ministers agreed to discuss other demands, including guaranteed prices for harvest and a withdrawal of criminal cases against protesting farmers.
“We will hold a review meeting on 15 January. If the government doesn’t fulfil its promises, we may resume the protest,” farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni told local media.
This movement was started by the Indian farmers against the three laws introduced by the government. These laws, if applied would have loosened rules around the sale, pricing and storage of farm produce – rules which have protected them from the free market for decades.
According to the farm unions, these would leave farmers vulnerable to big companies and destroy their source of revenue.
On November 19, Mr Modi finally announced his government’s decision to repeal the laws, after months of claiming that the transformations would benefit farmers.
The official bill that would cancel the reforms was passed in parliament on 30 November.
Farmer’s victory after this huge mass movement is a powerful example of how protests could still successfully challenge the government.
Even after PM Modi’s announcement, the farmers did not leave the protest site immediately. They said they would continue to protest until the government accepted their other demands.
On Thursday, the government gave a formal letter to farm leaders, accepting many of these.
Moreover, the government also agreed to provide compensation to the families of the farmers who died during the protest. This too is a big win for farmers since the government had told parliament last week that it had no record of the number of farmers who died during the protests.
Apart from the demand for a minimum support price (MSP), the government has assured to form a committee including representatives from the federal and state governments, agriculture scientists and farmer groups.
Since farmers form the most influential voting bloc in India – and experts say the upcoming state elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh may have forced the government to roll back the laws.