Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized to people over three controversial farm laws that have sparked a year-long protest by farmers, pledging that the government would abolish the laws during the next session of Parliament.
The government has failed to convince farmers to accept the farm laws, Modi said in his nationally-televised address on Nov. 19.
“I’m here to declare that we have decided to repeal the three farm laws. We will complete all the formalities during the Parliament session that begins this month,” he said.
The legislation first appeared in June as three ordinances before being approved by Parliament in September last year.
These laws are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
They aimed to deregulate the sector by allowing farmers to sell produce to buyers outside of government-regulated wholesale markets, where growers are guaranteed a minimum price.
The government hoped that the new legislation would help strengthen basic farm sector infrastructure through increased private investments, and that with India’s food markets expanding at an exponential rate, private players would make agriculture profitable for farmers.
Farmers began protesting against the three farm regulations in Punjab in July last year, fearful that the reform would result in decreased crop prices. They moved the protests to Delhi’s boundaries last November.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg and pop artist Rihanna, among others, had also drawn attention to the statewide protests.
The protests took a violent turn on Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day, when thousands of farmers overwhelmed police and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi after tearing down barricades and driving tractors through roadblocks.
“Today I have come to tell you, the whole country, that we have decided to withdraw all three agricultural laws,” Modi said, imploring farmers to return to their homes and “start afresh.”
Protesting farmers, who have been camped out in their thousands by main roads around the capital, New Delhi, celebrated Modi’s backtrack.
After protesting in the biggest protest site in Uttar Pradesh for nearly a year, Ranjit Kumar, a 36-year-old farmer from Ghazipur, claimed that the sacrifices made by protesting farmers had finally paid off.
Jubilant farmers handed out sweets in celebration and chanted “hail the farmer” and “long live farmers’ movement.” But they said the protest is not over as they intended to wait for Parliament to repeal the laws.
Reuters contributed to this article.