Old laws a burden, reforms needed: Modi amid farmers' protest
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that India cannot build the next century with old laws. The statement comes as farmers across the country stage protests against three contentious agricultural laws. Farmers have also called for a nationwide strike or "Bharat bandh" on Tuesday (December 8) as part of what have been described as the biggest protests by farmers in several years.
"Reforms are needed for development," Modi said, while speaking during the virtual inauguration of the Agra metro rail project, "We cannot build the next century with the laws of the previous century." "Some laws which used to be good in the past century, have become a burden in the present century," he said, adding that his government is bringing "holistic" and not "piecemeal" reforms.
For months, farmers have protested the three farm laws passed in September. The protests intensified in November-end as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, braving a heavy police crackdown. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations.
Amid talks with the government, protesting farmers have called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday, demanding the complete rollback of the three laws. Farmer leaders have said that the strike would be peaceful and there will be no forcible closure of shops or establishments on Tuesday. 'Chakka jams' (blockades) will be carried out on the streets till 3 pm, they said.
Several transport and trade unions have backed calls for "Bharat bandh" on Tuesday. The latest union to support the strike is the All India Railwaymen's Federation, which has nine lakh members. The railway union's General-Secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra said on Monday that they have written to their affiliates all over the Indian Railways to "organize agitation programs, dharna, demonstrations, and rallies during lunch hour."
Meanwhile, several political parties have also supported the nationwide strike including the Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Shiv Sena, Makkal Needhi Maiam, Trinamool Congress, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Left parties, etc. Notably, ruling-NDA constituent Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has also backed the strike.
However, the BJP-JJP government in Haryana—primarily an agricultural state—continues to oppose the protests. In BJP-led Gujarat, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani openly defied the strike and threatened strict action against anyone who closes their shops/establishments. Farmer outfits in Kerala will also not participate in light of local body polls in the state. Taxis and BEST buses in Maharashtra's Mumbai will also continue to operate.
Meanwhile, Kerala has decided to move the Supreme Court against the farm laws. Kerala Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar said, "The anti-farmer laws will not be implemented in Kerala and an alternative law will be considered." Earlier on Monday, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav was detained after party leaders led by him broke a security cordon in Lucknow to stage protests supporting the farmers.