We’ve been covering the progress—well, the lack thereof—of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s farm bill for a while now. It’s a measure that, if passed, would allow industrial and infrastructural interests to buy India’s huge class of peasant farmers out of their land so long as 80 percent of them buy into the project (the objecting 20 percent would still be compensated, as with American eminent domain). When he took office, Modi singled out this issue as his most important proposed reform, since a developing India will need space for major projects, but land in many places in India is sliced into small plots. But the PM met huge resistance not only in parliament (where India’s formerly long-ruling Congress Party has tried to stop him at every turn), but also among the rural Hindu poor, his political base.Now, even Modi himself is giving up hope, taking the key passage out of the reform bill, as Reuters reports:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has agreed to drop politically unpopular clauses from a pro-business land bill, a move that will fuel worries among investors that the slow pace of economic reforms is hurting long-term growth prospects. […]After failing to garner wider support for the measure, lawmakers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said they would not press ahead with the contentious clauses of the bill.“You may call it a U-turn, or a political course correction, but we have decided to accept the consent clause because it will protect the farmer’s right over his land,” said a senior member of the BJP. […]Tussles over land acquisition have locked up hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure developments. The bill was meant to make it easier to acquire land and help realise Modi’s vision of building modern cities and industrial corridors.
It’s been a rough ride for Modi’s reforms in general. Along with his championship of Hindu nationalism, this liberal economic reform agenda sits at the core of his political identity, and it is where he has, rightly in our opinion, placed his hopes for India’s prosperous future. Without someone, be it Modi or anyone else, to successfully shepherd difficult but necessary measures through the Indian political process, the country that will soon be the most populous in the world is leaving money on the table.