India farm protests to continue despite Modi's repeal of laws

The demands from the farm groups include minimum price guarantees for all major crops. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - India's farmers will continue their protests even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to repeal controversial farm laws, and their demands include price guarantees for their crops, a senior farm leader said.

The demands from the farm groups include minimum price guarantees for all major crops, Mr Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, a Communist Party-affiliated farmers' union, said on Monday (Nov 22) in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

That is something the government has deemed unfeasible.

The government currently purchases about two dozen agricultural commodities, including some food grains, pulses and oilseeds, at pre-determined prices for its welfare programmes.

The laws were rushed through Parliament in September last year and resulted in tens of thousands of farmers across north India taking to the streets in protests.

Last Friday, Mr Modi attempted to end the protracted stand-off by agreeing to roll back that legislation in the next session of Parliament, starting on Nov 29. The move came ahead of elections in crucial states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab early next year.

"This will be a long-drawn struggle as far as farmers of India is concerned," Mr Krishnan said, adding that protesters are also angry that Mr Modi "has not had a word of solace for the families" of the farmers who lost their lives during the protests.

Before last year, India's system for buying and selling crops had remained largely unchanged since the 1950s.

The laws, which had already been suspended by the Supreme Court in January, allowed farmers to sell crops directly to private firms instead of licensed middlemen at state-controlled markets.

While Mr Modi said the laws would help them earn more cash, farmers feared those companies would not give them minimum prices set by the government.

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