Farmers’ Protest

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FARMERS across the country have vowed to continue protesting against recently passed agricultural law after talks with the government didn’t lead to any breakthrough on Tuesday. The 35-member team of farmers met Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar, his cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal and junior industry minister Som Prakash at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan. This was the third round of talks between the farmers and the government in the last few months. The government has suggested the formation of a committee to resolve the differences over farm laws but it was rejected by farmers. The farmers want the government to withdraw a set of three laws adopted in September that they apprehend could put an end to minimum support prices that the government would earlier pay them. This was turned down by the government.

The farmers have threatened to block five entry points to Delhi: Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura. Meanwhile, more farmers from Punjab and from Haryana are making their way to New Delhi. The protest is said to be supported by over 3 lakh farmers. They have braved water cannons, tear gas and police barricades on their way to national capital.

Government in its defence says the new laws are geared to do away with middlemen and allow farmers to sell produce anywhere in the country. But the farmers contend that the laws will deprive the farmers of minimum support price and leave them at the mercy of corporates.

But the significance of the farmers protest goes beyond the demand to withdraw three laws. It will be important to see whether the protest dents the popularity of the Modi government. So far this has not been the case. The BJP’s excellent performance in recent Bihar polls indicates this. The saffron party performed better in the areas with large concentration of migrant workers who suffered most during Modi government’s badly implemented lockdown. Similarly, the months long NRC protests last year didn’t affect the party’s image. Nor has the ongoing economic recession which also is in part the result of the government’s ill-thought policies, done any damage to the reputation of the central government. So, to expect the farmers’ protest impinge on the popularity of the Modi government is premature. Also, this government has shown a resilient ability to not only withstand but also defeat any challenge to its legitimacy. The political opposition, on the other hand, has been reduced to fighting over scraps. But the situation can still change. Having been in power for six years, the government may find it increasingly difficult to override the disaffection among various sections of the population all the time. More so, when the new laws are seen to detrimentally affect the interests of a large section of population. It would be thus in the interest of the centre to listen to the farmers and address their issues.

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