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Economist Salvatore Babones lauds India’s agriculture reforms as pro-farmers

By Standard Reporter | April 14th 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to offer farmers limited price support even as he holds the line on loan waivers described as pragmatic and forward-looking.

Millions of Indian farmers will benefit from the country's new farm laws, an Australian scholar, who has been encouraging Delhi to stay the course of reform, has said.
Salvatore Babones, an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, says in an article published in the Foreign Policy magazine that India's rich farmers are frustrating the reforms that are designed to help the poor.
Mr Babones described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to offer farmers limited price support even as he holds the line on loan waivers as pragmatic and forward-looking.
Opposition Indian National Congress has countered Mr Modi’s reform proposal with a promise to "waive all farm loans" across the country -- an expensive solution that some economists have described as a populist magic wand."
Mr Babones says in the article that despite what the anti-reform activists and their Western celebrity supporters claim, “most of those opposed to the new laws aren't drawn from the ranks of marginalised subsistence farmers who are deep in debt and despair to the edge of suicide.”
“What large scale farmers fear that the laws will hurt them by undermining the current state-directed system for buying farm produce and ultimately lead to the dismantling of the price support system on which they depend,” he said.
The large scale farmers are demanding that the government stops the reforms and guarantee the future of price supports.
The Indian government maintains that the overall goal of the reforms is to transform the country’s agriculture from a locally managed rural economy into a modern national resource.
“The reforms will allow small farmers to specialise in niche crops that can be marketed nationwide through large-scale wholesalers and also create new risks, as farmers are transformed into entrepreneurs," Mr Babones says in the Foreign Policy magazine article.
He has criticised Western media outlets for "uncritically buying into the rich farmers’ narrative, resulting in pure misinformation on the reforms.
“Any suggestion that the BJP's new farm laws threaten the livelihoods of as many as 800 million people must wrestle with the reality that in a country where 52 per cent of the working population is engaged in agriculture, only 6 per cent of the population actively disapprove of Mr Modi's performance in office.

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