Address Fears of Farmers

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PROTESTS by farmers in the country is showing no signs of ending with successive talks between the government and farmers’ leaders leading nowhere. The farmer unions have rejected the latest proposal by the government to amend controversial new farm laws and have warned they will intensify their protests if their demand for rollback of the new farm laws was not met. The centre on Wednesday had sent a written proposal to the unions, laying out a series of amendments including written assurances for Minimum Support Price (MSP), one of the key demands of protesting farmers. The government had also proposed the scrapping of the Electricity Amendment Bill opposed by farmers. Besides, the agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar also held out assurance that the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Mandis will not be dismantled.

But the farmers are not ready to budge. They want the three farm laws passed by the union government that deregulate crop pricing withdrawn. They argue that the laws will only hurt their livelihoods and will only benefit large corporations. The situation remains deadlocked. The farmers, meanwhile, have laid a siege to New Delhi, blocking its main entry points. The government, it seems, has now fewer options left but to accede to farmers’ demands. If this happens this will be the first time that the Modi government will be forced to withdraw any of the laws it has passed so far.

One of the biggest charge against the BJP-led union government is that it is unilaterally passing the far-reaching laws with a bearing on the lives of the millions of people. This started with sudden demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes in November 2016 that plunged the country into a virtual chaos. People thronged the banks to either exchange or deposit their old currency. Long queues of people, a significant number of them senior citizens, appeared outside the banks and ATMs to deposit their cash. Scores lost their lives in the process. Then followed the GST reform which crushed the small businesses. This was followed by the revocation of Article 370 that granted J&K its semi-autonomous status within Indian Union. The move’s disruptive fallout is still playing out in J&K and Ladakh, the former parts of J&K state, now downgraded into two union territories. Following this, the centre came up with Citizenship Amendment Act that ensured that only non-Muslim refugees from the neighbouring countries are entitled to Indian citizenship. Though the CAA was also resisted by people, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic ended the protest. Now the farmers protest is taking place despite the pandemic. And it remains to be seen how the central government responds to it. The best course for the government is to address the anxieties of the farmers and do everything to assure them that their livelihoods will not be threatened.

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