The three farm laws at the heart of fierce protests by farmers over the past 14 months will be withdrawn, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday. The U-turn comes months before elections in several states, including the agricultural belt of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
"While apologising to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking... that we could not explain the truth to some of our farmer brothers...we have decided to repeal the three farm laws," the Prime Minister said in an address to the nation.
So, what are the three farm laws? And why are they so controversial?
Law 1: Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act
This is supposed to allow "contract farming", or allow farmers to enter into direct agreements with agri-firms, exporters or large buyers to produce a certain crop for a pre-agreed price.
Law 2: Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act
Farmers pointed out that in practice small and marginal farmers may find it difficult to avail the potentially better prices at markets further away because of constraints on travel and storage, as well as associated costs. That was precisely why, they argued, some chose to sell in local wholesale markets even though prices were better elsewhere.
Law 3: Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act
This law was to scrap the government's power to limit stocks of essential food items, except under extraordinary circumstances. It also removed certain goods - like edible oil and onions - from that list.
It further enabled the government to regulate the supply of such commodities, or even re-include them on the list. The stock limit would be based on price rise in the market.