Protesters are calling on Modi to repeal recent farm laws that would downplay the government’s role in agriculture and open up more space for private investors. The government says the new laws would free farmers and private investment, leading to growth. But farmers are skeptical, fearing that removing state protections they already deem insufficient will leave them at the mercy of greedy companies.
Government support to farmers, which included guaranteed minimum prices for some essential crops, helped India overcome the hunger crisis of the 1960s. But with India’s liberalization of its economy in recent decades Mr. Modi – who wants the country’s economy to almost double by 2024 – considers that such an important role for the government is no longer sustainable.
Farmers, however, say they struggle even with existing protections. They say pro-market laws will eventually eliminate regulatory support and leave them private, with the weakened economy offering little chance of making a living.