about 5 days ago
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The proposed farm laws were to change the face of India. If 1991 changed the Indian economy, 2021 was to be the year when India’s age-old agriculture sector was to be completely overhauled.

Good thought but the reason why it did not go through  - it was being bulldozed without a discussion in the Parliament. If anything, the protest has shown that we do indeed live in a democracy – well, this point is debatable – if there were no impeding elections in UP and Punjab, would the Govt have taken a step back?

The main bone of contention was that the farmers would be made into rookies in the hands of the corporates and they will lose whatever little they were getting in through the Minimum Selling Price (MSP). And herein lay the story; the huge issue of trust deficit.

Even after 30 years, the farmers do not have an iota of trust on the Indian companies as they feel that they will be exploited, left high and dry. The protest was actually about allowing the Govt to continue with its hold over the sector rather than handing it over to the companies. Why this lack of trust on the Indian companies? Simply because they have done nothing to uplift the farmers or they have done everything to always put their profits ahead of farmer well-being. Farmers view the companies as a ruthless, money crazy, aggressive, bludgeoning machine which will eat up anything which comes in its way. That’s why the farmers feel that even if they are getting exploited by the middlemen, they will at least get enough to have food on their tables, err, floors. There are very few companies like ITC, through its e-Chaupal which has managed to win over farmers or for than matter, Tata’s. But the rest are all eyed with complete disdain; the fear that that Adani’s and the Ambani’s will take over even the agriculture sector is truly what put them off.

This is where the Govt erred. It cannot have a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. For such pathbreaking laws to take off, a dialogue with the farmers is crucial. The right way to go would have been to give an assurance that their right will remain a priority, always protected.

Also, the farmers were seeing that there were really no jobs being created. 58% of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, which contributes 18% to the GDP. But the job creation track record was very bad; so how could they give up the assurance of the MSP when there was nothing else to fall back upon?

It is sad that future of agriculture has today become a subject which is held ransom to the fate of the elections. These were great, pathbreaking farm laws and would have freed the Govt from the mounting fiscal deficit. But let this be a lesson for the Govt – you can have the best ideas but its useless if you use a high hand and do not try and choose a middle path. Dialogue, be it between friends, spouse, siblings or stakeholders, are at the crux of everything – trust can be built only through a dialogue.

Hope the Govt does not throw these ideas into the dust bin; these laws would have truly changed the face of Indian agriculture but if only they had promised Govt hand holding along with private sector support.

This is a sad, lost opportunity and all because the Govt thought it was too powerful to do as it wants. Protests or elections – it is after all, the victory of democracy alone.

PS: The agitating farmers refuse to go home despite the PMs assurance that the laws will be repealed; they said they will go only when it is actually repealed. Just goes on to show how deep rooted the trust deficit factor is.


The three laws which are in the eye of the storm:

1: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act - setting up a mechanism allowing the farmers to sell their farm produces outside the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs). Any licence-holder trader can buy the produce from the farmers at mutually agreed prices. This trade of farm produces will be free of mandi tax imposed by the state governments.

2: The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act - allows farmers to do contract farming and market their produces freely.

3: The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act - an amendment to the existing Essential Commodities Act, which frees items such as foodgrains, pulses, edible oils and onion for trade except in extraordinary situation

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