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India’s Modi concedes surprise win to protesters

“I want to tell the country that we have decided to repeal the three farm laws,” Modi said in a televised address on Friday, which local media described as “stunning.”

The Indian parliament will complete the constitutional process of repealing the agricultural legislation in late November, he added.

However, the PM again defended the divisive legislation, saying that the reform of the sector, which accounts for some 15% of India’s $2.7 trillion economy, was actually aimed at supporting the country’s small farmers.

“Maybe something was lacking in our efforts, which is why we couldn’t convince some farmers about the laws,” Modi acknowledged.

The laws, which were introduced last September, allowed farmers to sell their crops outside of the government-regulated wholesale markets, in which they were guaranteed a minimum price.

The government argued that it would see them earning more, but growers feared that that move would, on the contrary, cause a drop in prices and make them hostages to large corporations.

Thousands of farmers joined the protests against what they called “black laws,” and some rallies turned violent. A year later, many demonstrators remain camped along roads outside the capital New Delhi.

And the farmers aren’t planning on going home just yet, with one of their leaders saying on Twitter: “We will wait for parliament to repeal the laws.”

Modi’s concession to the protesters may have been unexpected, but it comes several months ahead of elections in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, as well as two other northern states with large rural populations.

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