Farmers’ agitation – a battle won is war prolonged

Commenting on farmers’ protest I had in December last said that when parliamentary majority takes the shape of elective dictatorship, disputes would have to be settled on the streets.  It took about a year since then for the government to give in.  The usual ammunition used to smother dissent did not work.  This included branding the agitation as anti-national communal activity, imputing sedition and engineering defection.  Expectations that farmers from Punjab and those from western Uttar Pradesh would fall out with each other or that local communities in villages hosting protest sites would turn hostile to agitators did not gain traction.  Hopes that, as it often happens in a long-drawn agitations, lumpen elements would do something to turn the tide of public sympathy also did not materialize.  On the contrary the agitation well survived the Red Fort violence on the Republic Day.  Attempts to frustrate the Supreme Court when seized with the matter did not help nor has the manner in which the Lakhimpur Kheri incident was dealt with.          

While the agitators celebrate, it must be remembered that a battle won is war prolonged.  The government giving in is just a strategic retreat predicated by elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh due in 2022.  BJP seems to have come to the conclusion that notwithstanding disarray within and among its political opponents in those two states, farmers’ agitation may tilt the balance which Modi magic alone may not suffice to offset.

Like the proverbial curate’s egg, the farm laws were excellent in parts but truly so.  Depending on the angle of vision, it could be seen as good content with bad intent or bad content with good intent.  Agriculture reforms are indeed overdue.  Exploitation of small farmers and extortion by middlemen are realities that need relief other than simply substituting small touts with big corporations.  Minimum support price without guaranteed procurement is a farce that benefits only particular farm lobbies in specific geographies.  Protecting commercial interests of farmers must add up to ecologically sustainable cropping pattern and ensure food security for the country.  

These issues must be taken up when farm laws go back to the drawing board.  Hopefully the powers that be have learnt a lesson.  Politicians of other hues too should feel chastened having been thwarted in their attempts to board the protest platform.  Therefore, both may discover the convenience of constructive dialogue.  In this, farmers must continue their vigil so that they are not short changed.  Civil society also when interacting with these contentious issues must be careful that the baby is not thrown with the bathwater.                   




Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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