There is growing unease at the inexplicable delay on the part of the union government in accepting the well-justified demands of the farmers’ movement. It is by now widely recognized that the three controversial farm laws are not justified and were somehow pushed through with undue hurry. The government representatives have already accepted the need for several amendments and the unseemly hurry to get these laws passed in the Parliament was there for everyone to see, as also the bypassing of proper consultative processes on such important laws. Hence the key demand of the farmers for repealing the laws is also justified. ( Kindly also refer to my earlier article in countercurrents.org dated December 4 2020 titled ’21 compelling reasons why the Modi government should accept the demand for repealing the three farm laws’).
It is by now amply clear from the five rounds of negotiations between the government representatives and the farmers’ representatives that from the farmers’ side the demand for repealing the three controversial farm laws is a very firm demand and this demand will not be taken back. Apart from the farmer representatives present at the negotiations, a significant number of other farmer leaders with a strong presence in various states as well as leaders of all-India farmer organizations have expressed strong support for this key demand.
It is equally clear that any use of force to evict farmers or to end their protest dharna should be entirely ruled out by the government as this will have very adverse many-sided and long-term implications, apart from the immediate distress this will cause to a very large number of people . Any use of force will be so harmful for the wider national interests that no sane government committed to the welfare of the country will consider this. ( Readers may also be referred to the article in countercurrents.org dated December 5 2020 titled ‘11 significant reasons why government should entirely rule out use of force in dealing with ongoing farmer protest’).
Keeping in view the above factors the most obvious policy option for the government is to accept the demand for repealing the three controversial laws and to withdraw all cases against farmers and protesters relating to their participation in this movement . The government will lose nothing by accepting this demand ( there are no financial implications of accepting this demand of repealing laws and withdrawing cases). The government will not lose face. It can continue to say the laws were passed with very good intentions but in view of such massive scale apprehensions these are being taken back so that the entire issue can be examined afresh. Clearly the government actually stands to gain a lot in terms of goodwill and support-base by accepting the demands of the farmers and announcing this in terms of its magnanimity, proclaiming itself to be a true friend and savior of farmers. It must be evident also to the experienced and astute managers of the ruling combine that the political advantage gained will be more, the goodwill achieved will be more if the acceptance of key farmer demand is at a relatively early stage.
So clearly according to any rational calculations the politically astute Modi regime should have accepted the key demands of the farmers by now. After all what else is the option? Once use of force is ruled out and it is clear from many rounds of negotiations that farmers will not withdraw their protests without the repeal of three laws, then sooner or later the laws have to be repealed.
It is better in the interests of everyone to do this sooner rather than later. The farmers camping in difficult conditions will get a lot of genuine relief and return home happily. They will be able to devote themselves to getting a better rabi crop. Various travel restrictions and blockade of goods movements will be sorted out immediately. Worries regarding health issues will be removed. Why not achieve all these gains immediately instead of allowing all such problems to increase day by day?
In fact the case for immediate acceptance of key demands of farmers without further delay is so strong that any undue delay on the part of the government only gives room for the spread of rumors and speculations about its intentions. The best way of quashing these speculations and rumors and avoiding this growing gulf between government and people is to accept the demands of farmers’ movement without further delay, providing much relief and happiness to people in overall conditions of many-sided problems and worries in the country.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist and author. His reporting on rural development and human rights issues has been recognized in the form of several prestigious awards.