Angry Farmers

THE Uttar Pradesh government has finally arrested the Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, who is accused of running over farmers killing eight people. So far, the government had resisted the pressure from the farmers and the opposition parties to arrest the minister’s son. The opposition is also demanding the resignation of the minister. The farmers killings has given a fillip to their agitation which has now been going on for the past ten months.

The protest began last year on November 26 against the three farm laws: Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. While the centre has defended the laws as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country, the farmers contend that the legislations would eliminate the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the "mandi" system. They also fear that the laws would bring on the scene the corporates who would monopolize the trade and feel empowered to determine the market prices.

Though the union Government had earlier offered to suspend the laws for about eighteen months, the farmers refused to accept, seeking nothing less than withdrawal of the controversial legislation. But the government too has now dug in heels. Armed with an absolute majority, the government hasn't felt hampered by the protests whose dominant impact has been in Punjab, Haryana and parts of the UP. Even now, the central government seems under no pressure to address the farmers grievances. But as the elections in Punjab and especially in the UP draw nearer, the centre would find it exceedingly difficult to ignore the protests.

If anything the protests are only going to gather further momentum in near future. With the farmers from Uttar Pradesh now also joining the protest in a big way, pressure on the government is only going to increase. The farmers would certainly try to exploit the government's political vulnerability in the run-up to the Punjab and the UP polls.

It remains to be seen how the government responds to the mounting protests. More so, with the protests drawing international attention and support. It would be great if the government shelves the laws and then engages farmers in a discussion on them to mobilize support for their enactment in the future.

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