After more than a year of protests around the world, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Friday (Nov. 19) that he would repeal the controversial agriculture laws.
But some are taking that news with a grain of salt.
“Primarily, it’s a mixture of some level of relief and then some bewilderment that it’s been a year of sacrifice,” explained Moninder Singh, a spokesperson for the B.C. Gurdwaras Council.
“People have left their homes, millions of people congregating at times around India’s capital, hundreds of people dying on the streets, clashes with police, the economy in the Punjab state coming to a standstill.
“I think all of those things are now compounding on people, so did we actually win? What have we actually achieved? Have we just moved back to the status quo?”
In the past year, there have been protests around the world, including near-daily protests along the Surrey-Delta border at Scott Road and 72 Avenue and car rallies throughout the Lower Mainland.
Those protests stemmed from three bills that were put forward in India’s central government in September of 2020 that Singh previously told the Now-Leader would affect “small-time farmers” in India.
“What it essentially does is it takes away something called the MSP, which is the minimum support price that farmers rely on. So depending on how the economy’s going… they have a minimum support price they can rely on that the government will buy their produce and their product at. Once that’s stripped away, they’re left to a free market,” explained Singh back in 2019.
“In that part of the world, a free market is essentially a death sentence for most of these small-time farmers.”
He added it leaves the farmers “at the power of the larger corporations” who can, with no minimum support price, “lower the prices which they buy at.”
Now, Singh said the process to undo those laws could take months – if it happens at all.
“Now to undo all of that, it would come back to parliament and there would be an entire process around that. Even as Mr. Modi is saying this, it would take a concerted effort of a lot of other MPs to side with him in a coalition government to actually bring it down.”
Asked if he thinks the general public has realized this announcement could take time, Singh said, “I think that has yet to settle in at a mass level, but I think the celebrations are happening at a mass level.”
Scott Road and 72 Avenue was buzzing Thursday night (Nov. 18), he noted, as “people were very overcome with emotion.” A group was back at the northeast corner on Friday.
“The key to this is understanding the short-term announcement as just short-term, and the longer term struggle of the farmers plight in India in general. That achievement will be a longer process.”
– With files from The Canadian Press
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