Thousands of farmers protesting against the three laws that will govern Indian agriculture henceforth on Wednesday observed a “black day”, marking the completion of six months of their agitation at the gates of the national capital. “We are not going anywhere,” they said and insisted that they have no plans to go home unless the government listened to them, repealed the three laws and offered them legal guarantee for minimum support price for their produce.
They also want protection from the impact of the proposed Electricity Bill. Farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and several other states also joined the protest, called by the umbrella organisation of farmers unions, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
The government has been playing hot and cold on the issue of the repeal of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. It is curious that all the tall figures in the government, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to agriculture minister Narendra Tomar to defence minister Rajnath Singh who tried to mediate with the farmers, have all declared their intention to alleviate the fears of the farming community but they have remained on the streets for the last six months despite 11 rounds of talks!
The farmers have been apprehensive of the intentions of the government when it legally and effectively opens up the Indian farm sector and leaves it for the market forces to control. They cannot be faulted given that the government’s track record of planning and executing its ideas on the ground has been dismal. If its bungling on demonetisation and the introduction of Goods and Services Tax is not enough, then the government’s vanishing act while the nation fell prey to the second wave of the pandemic Covid-19 would add to the fear in the minds of the farming community.
The Opposition parties have also lent their support to the farmers’ demands. The government must stop being obdurate and immediately resume talks with the SKM, they have stated in a letter to the Prime Minister this week, reminding the government that it will help “protect lakhs of our annadatas becoming victims of the pandemic so that they can continue to produce food to feed the Indian people”.
While the government has been saying it had the welfare of the farming community at its heart, anti-social elements have been working overtime to malign the agitation. They almost succeeded in their mission with the drama played out on the Republic Day but for the dexterous move by the Bharat Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait. A similar attempt was made when a section of the media blamed the protesters for stopping oxygen carriers to Delhi. That also was exposed in no time.
The government must realise that no agitation can be drawn this long unless there is a genuine cause. The government must resume talks at the earliest and convince the farmers about its earnestness or be convinced by their fears. Letting the annadatas go on an unending agitation does not behove a democratic government....