Monday, Nov 28, 2022

Explained: Why PM Modi withdrew the three farm laws — and the precedent from six years ago

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws. How long were they in effect, and what are the next steps to withdraw them? Why did the government do an about-turn? What will be the impact of their repeal?

Farmers celebrate after the farm laws are repealed, at Ghazipur border in New Delhi on Friday. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (November 19) announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws. Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against these laws at the borders of Delhi since November 26 last year.

For how long were these laws in effect, then?

The journey of the three farm laws — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — began on June 5, 2020, when the President of India promulgated three ordinances­ that were the precursors to these Acts.

These three ordinances — The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020; The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 — were replaced the aforementioned Acts that were passed by Parliament in September 2020.

The implementation of these laws was stayed by the Supreme Court on January 12, 2021. So, these laws were in effect for only 221 days.

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What will be the next step to withdraw these laws?

Parliament has the authority to enact, amend, and repeal any law. The government will have to move motions to repeal the three farm laws in the coming session of Parliament. These motions will be moved by the same ministries that piloted the Bills to enact these laws.

But why did the government decide to repeal these laws after defending them solidly for so long?

While no official reason has been cited, the decision comes just ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament that is scheduled to commence on November 29. In the last session of Parliament, the opposition attacked the government strongly over the laws, and it led to acrimony and impacted the functioning of the Houses.


Also, the Prime Minister has made his announcement before the announcement of crucial Assembly elections in five states — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Goa. The BJP’s performance in the civic polls in Punjab earlier this year, and in Assembly byelections in Haryana were dismal.

The farm laws were billed as part of historic reform in agriculture. What will be the impact of their repeal, now?

After being forced to take back these laws that it loudly, vehemently, and repeatedly proclaimed as “historic”, the government will doubtless have to walk the path of reform very cautiously.


The Modi government’s image among its supporters is that of resolute strength and invincibility. Has it had to back off in this manner earlier?

There is one earlier example of the Narendra Modi government withdrawing similarly. During its previous term, the Modi government had withdrawn a contentious ordinance, which was brought to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013­­.

Farm laws, farm laws repealed, Modi farm laws, PM Modi speech, Farm laws explained, Farm laws politics, farmers protest, Indian Express Farmers take part in a meeting during the farmers’ protest at Delhi’s border. (Express Photo: Ritesh Shukla)

What happened in this case?

The ordinance was withdrawn in the face of stiff opposition. When the government introduced a Bill to replace this ordinance in Lok Sabha on February 24, 2015, the Opposition attacked the government over the proposed changes in the Act. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on March 10, but it failed to clear Rajya Sabha, where the government’s position was weaker at the time.

Although a notice for motion for consideration and passing of the Bill was given on March 13, it could not be taken up for consideration as Rajya Sabha was prorogued on March 28. When the Bill again failed to get approval of Parliament during the first leg of that year’s Budget Session, the government promulgated it again as the RFCTLARR (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 on April 3.


Meanwhile, the Opposition continued its protests outside and inside Parliament.

Repealing the farm laws |Laying a ghost to rest

What were the political considerations before the government on that occasion?

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the government in Lok Sabha on April 20, 2015. Making an intervention during a discussion on the agrarian situation, he said: “… Your government is ignoring the problems of farmers and does not listen to the voice of workers. Your government is the government of industrialists… Your government is a government of big people. Suit-boot ki sarkar hai. We all understand that… On one hand you are weakening farmers and labourers, and when they are able to stand on their feet, you will hit them with the axe of your Ordinance.”


In the second leg of the Budget Session, the Bill was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee for examination. On May 30, the government reissued the Ordinance, as the RFCTLARR (Amendment) Second Ordinance, 2015.

So how did the government’s about-turn come about on that occasion?

Amid continuing anger against the amendment, Prime Minister Modi announced the decision to withdraw the Ordinance in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme broadcast on August 31, 2015.


“I have always said that the government is open to all views and suggestions on the issue of Land Acquisition Act, on which a debate is going on. I have reiterated again and again that I am open to any suggestion in the interest of the farmers. But today, I want to tell all my farmer brothers and sisters that the request to reform the ‘Land Acquisition Act’ was raised by the states very emphatically… And hence this reformed proposal was introduced,” Modi said.

“But I saw how the farmers were being misled and a fear psychosis created. My dear farmers, you should not be misled and definitely never be scared. And I do not wish to give anyone the opportunity to mislead you and scare you. For me, every single voice in the nation is important but most important to me is the voice of the farmer. We had issued an ordinance. Tomorrow, on August 31st the deadline for this ordinance ends. I have decided that let this ordinance be lapsed,” he said.

Eventually, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

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First published on: 19-11-2021 at 02:04:09 pm
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