Indian farmers’ unions will today restrict access to the country’s national railways as part of the ongoing protest against three new agricultural laws.
The novel legislation has exposed tensions between Prime Minister Nerandra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and rural farmers, leading to mass demonstrations. The core issue stems from the liberalisation of the agricultural sector, as farmers fear the eradication of wholesale markets and guaranteed prices that could leave them vulnerable to large corporations.
Modi is unlikely to meet demands for the repeal of the laws, but New Delhi may seek compromises in an attempt to find an exit ramp. Modi’s offer to suspend the laws for 12 to 18 months already represents a significant climbdown. With farmers comprising 58% of India’s population, Modi fears that extended discontent could hamper the BJP’s electoral prospects in the important 2022 state assembly elections.
Expect the government to consult with unions in the near future, perhaps offering increased spending on agricultural infrastructure to buttress the initial offer. If, however, farmers stick to their rigid “repeal or no deal” position, it may prompt a violent crackdown, considerably heightening political volatility and inviting international condemnation at a time when India already faces criticism for abuses in Kashmir.
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Sinan is an analyst for the Current Developments Team and a regular contributor to the Daily Brief. A student of transatlantic affairs, he specialises in political, economic and energy affairs of Europe and the Middle East.