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Farm Laws: Indian Unions Say Victory Part Of Wider Social Movement

The decision by the India government to repeal three controversial farm laws is a major victory for working people that has prompted a mass movement in the country, according to unions there.

On 19 November, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced the repeal of the laws after a year of protests with thousands of farmers camped on the edge of Delhi. It is thought that nearly 700 farmers have died from heat, cold and COVID-19.

In a statement, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) said: “Congratulations to the farmers unions. The ongoing historical struggle … has taken the shape of a mass movement, with extended solidarity from trade unions, other like-minded organisations and the general public. This success is an inspiration for others.”

Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, general secretary of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) trade union federation, said: “Truth, nonviolence and democracy have won over arrogance. Hats off to Sanyukta Kissan Morcha [farmers unions’ coalition]. Its matured, experienced leadership, its tremendous organising capability and, above all, rock-hard unity and patience have made the farmers’ movement a historic one.”

Engage with unions

However, Harbhajan Singh Sidhu warned that the announcement may be a stunt aimed at forthcoming assembly elections, but added: “It won’t work. All sections of society are facing the brunt of the anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-people policies of the present government. The need is to maintain the worker-farmer unity. It is high time for us all to use our right to vote … to prove it is the people not the corporate offices that are supreme in democracy.”

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ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Congratulations to the farmers’ unions, and everyone who supported them in their campaign. They have our support and solidarity to see that the prime minister’s words now lead to action, and to maintain the wider social movement that has been created.

“I call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to learn from these events that the only choice is to engage with workers’ unions and work with them on any planned changes to labour laws. If he had done this from the start, he could have avoided a great deal of suffering and many tragic deaths.”

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