High hopes reposed in the talks between the representatives of farmers’ organizations and the government on January 4 were not fulfilled and the entire issue got postponed to the next round of talks scheduled for January 8. This is very disappointing. Why is the stalemate persisting? The statements made by both sides after this round may help us to understand this.
It appears from these statements that the main reason for the stalemate relates to the unwillingness of the government to accept the demand of farmers’ organizations relating to repeal of three controversial farm laws , or two new laws and one amended law.
Instead of accepting the demand of repealing the three farm laws, the government side has been insisting on a clause by clause discussion on the three laws. This is presented as a democratic stand of the government, as indicating that the government is prepared to discuss all aspects of the three laws. Nevertheless, the government stand amounts to looking at the laws in isolation from some wider realities which are very important.
On the other hand the stand of the farmers is based on understanding of the wider realities in the context of which these three laws have been pushed very hurriedly by the government. By taking into consideration these wider realities the understanding of the farmers is more comprehensive and hence more rational. This aspect of the understanding and perception of farmers needs to be better appreciated by the government side.
What are the wider realities in the context of which farmers have tried to form a more comprehensive understanding of the three laws? In recent decades the predominant feature of world food and farming scene has been the increasing dominance of big business interests which has led to increasing difficulties for small farmers and family farms millions of whom have been displaced in many countries. These trends can be seen in India also in the form of increasing dominance and role of big business leading to much higher costs, debts for farmers and ability of big business to manipulate policy in such a way as to get a big share of the benefit of government’s farm budget and schemes.
The three contentious farm laws have been rightly perceived as a huge jump forward in increasing the dominance of big business in food and farming sector, a perception of farmer organizations which has been supported by many independent experts and economists, some of whom have written directly to the government in support of the demand of the farmer organizations for repealing the three farm laws. The functioning of crony capitalism with big business close to ruling establishment trying to dominate key sectors is already well known. The need for taking such a comprehensive view of farm laws, taking in view the wider realities, is articulated in more detail in my earlier column to which interested readers may refer ( article titled A Comprehensive Analysis of Three farm Laws, Countercurrents.org, 23 December, 2020).
Suffice it to say here that by drawing attention to the dangers of these three farm laws and by campaigning against them from a very early stage these farmer organizations has rendered vary valuable service to the nation for which they should be thanked and honored. The government should understand the rationality and logic of the stand taken by farmer organizations.
The government view, the clause by clause view, is an isolationist view whereas the view of the farmers’ organizations is more comprehensive, and hence more rational.
Bharat Dogra is a veteran journalist and author. He has received several awards for rural reporting. His latest books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.