The fact that the current ruling political dispensation in New Delhi has chosen to enunciate a long-pending, but extremely sensitive and highly emotive “farm-reforms,” right in the middle of a raging global pandemic suggests that India is in uncharted territory.
Clearly, enunciating farm-reforms right in the middle of a public health pandemic which has seen the country still reeling under different levels of lockdowns with around 9 million people having been affected and more than 100,000 deaths, is either a mark of extremely high self-belief or political sagaciousness or in contrast a complete political naivety, or pure lack of concern for India’s vast swathe of small-farmers.
For uninitiated, India’s vast farm sector comprises of more than 75 per cent marginal farmers with landholding size of around 2 hectares, thereby making any prospects of much-awaited farm reforms and corporatisation of the sector an extremely difficult task for successive governments.
This is the reason that why India’s first-generation economic reforms under Prime Minister Narsimha Rao & Finance Minister Manmohan Singh in early 1990s and the second generation reforms under Prime Minister Atal Behari Bajpayee had not dared to enunciate any farm-reform despite repeated calls from the experts' committees.
Probably they had a clear understanding that India was not yet ready for any bold reforms within the vast sector that not only feed a whopping 1.25 billion population but have also transformed India from a food-deficit country to a food surplus country by the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
It seems that the current ruling dispensation under PM Narendra Modi, who was re-elected to power in 2019 with a record historic mandate, has given up on patience and compassion, in favour of a possible bright future for the country and farmers themselves, once they undergo through massive pains and sacrifices required for transitioning of the archaic farming sector.
PM Modi who had a penchant for contentious decisions ranging from demonetisation, implementing of GST, the abolition of Article 370, or recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act, seems to have a different view of the challenges in enunciating farm-sector reforms and have chosen to initiate such reforms right in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.
In this regard, it is important to note that managing any social unrest is always a challenge for any polity, and for the Indian state managing, one in the middle of a global pandemic especially in a state and regions of the country situated around the international border, with history of experiencing cross border-infiltration and terrorism is a poor strategic choice.
To make it worse, some section of local media in India, that have demonstrated an absolute bereft of sensitiveness by suggesting that dissenting farmers and their protest movement is aligned or controlled by the so-called “Khalistani groups” is a blatant non-sense and a poor attempt to re-ignite the wounds and the social-chasms that has bled India for decades, and only recently different groups and the rest of India have learnt to forgive and forget and move-on.
Such media groups in India need to understand that their primary duty is towards the people of India by presenting accurate assessments, commentaries, and analysis in a manner that does not re-ignite wounds of India that have only healed after many decades.
To put it clearly and succinctly farmers are the lifeblood of India and need to be respected and not tear-gassed or hit with water cannons. Listen to them and resolve their issues.
Farmers have been protesting for nearly two months against new laws supposedly being passed to help the farmers.
Common sense is that if the Farmers don’t want these laws, then why are those laws being forced upon them. This is like forcibly giving someone a present even if the receiver feels this is not good for them.
Govt should have engaged constructively with the Farmers in the very first week and not leave it for nearly two months.
Simple steps for conflict resolution
Engage - Talk - Reach out - Assure - Resolve.
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