Options and their chances of working out
My article dated 12th December offered a suggestion on how to avoid/ minimize agitations in the future . The current article explores the options available before the government to handle the on-going farmers’ agitation.
It appears, there are broadly 3 possible ways to end the agitation:
- Wear the agitators out or expect some new or unexpected events to overtake the agitation, leading to its fizzling out.
- The government accepts the demand of the articulate leaders of the agitating farmers and repeals the 3 farm laws, then talk to them, and re-enact what they want.
- The government (though initially unwilling to negotiate during the enactment of the laws in the Parliament) somehow convinces the farmer leaders that it would address specific objections of the farmers through amendments to the laws and written guarantees, without repealing the laws completely.
Draining groundwater resources endlessly growing paddy and wheat is unsustainable for Punjab and Chandigarh, which is what the farmers demand to be allowed.
Chances of Option 1 working out are very low, and it would only lead to inconveniencing the general public and show the government in poor light for long. But it is an option, nevertheless. If this can be made to work, this may still be a good option.
Option 2 (viz, repeal of the 3 farm laws) as demanded by the leaders of the agitation is unreasonable and if the government were to concede it, we may have to bid goodbye to all reforms in the future, as some groups of individuals or vested interests (who may be affected by every reform) would start agitating exactly like this, with this as precedence.
The farmers’ agitation doesn’t follow the SC guidelines; the agitators are causing a major disruption to public life for far too long, which they are not entitled to do regardless of the merits of their cause. The government is treating them with kid gloves because it doesn’t want to appear to be using force against its own people, though technically the government is fully entitled to scuttle the agitation tactfully if the disruptions continue for too long.
The fact of the matter is, the ‘agitating farmers’ represent only a small percentage of the farmers nationally, and they come mainly from 2 states. Their agitation is not even in the medium or long terms interest of real farmers of these 2 states, nor in the interest of the farmers across the country, and surely not in the interest of the non-farmers and the nation.
Most states will agree to implement. Mainly Punjab and probably Chandigarh may not implement.
Draining groundwater resources endlessly growing paddy and wheat is unsustainable for Punjab and Haryana, which is what the farmers demand to be allowed. And procuring an obscenely surplus quantity of grains, mainly from these 2 states, from rich farmers, only to be allowed to be wasted, makes no sense.
The silent majority don’t appear to back the agitation. Most of the farmers appear to believe that they would be beneficiaries of the 3 farm laws, as claimed by the government. Enough has been said and discussed on this subject in the public domain, and so I’m not going into details.
So, it is clear that the government should not bow down to the unreasonable demands of the vested interest groups. But it can’t use force either, as it is a sensitive issue, and so it should handle it tactfully.
The government has been trying Option 3 without a breakthrough insight.
If the stalemate continues, as a last resort, I have a suggestion to offer.
The government could agree to amend the laws such that these laws won’t apply to states that don’t want to implement them. In such a scenario, the agitating farmers’ unions would have no right to demand their repeal in states that are interested in implementing these laws. Most states will agree to implement. Mainly Punjab and probably Haryana may not implement.
Since the cost of not implementing these laws in these states is the highest, a question may arise whether it is worth implementing these laws making exceptions to these 2 states?
However, if the implementing states could prove that their farmers are benefitting from the 3 farmer laws, within the next year or two, the farmers in the states would start demanding their implementation in their states as well. And if the farmers in the implementing states suffer due to these laws (which looks most unlikely), then the farmers across India would also ask for the repeal of these laws. It could make a few years for the benefits of these laws to accrue, if at all.
We should consider the possibility that this could become a precedent, and those opposed to any new central laws could start demanding that states should have the option not to implement every new law.
My suggestion may be tried only as a last resort if repealing of the 3 laws across India becomes almost necessary.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.