How we lost a historic opportunity: Anti Farm Reform protests in India

The past few months have been tough for India and her citizens. There has been a raging battle between a group of farmers, along with their support lobby, and the Government of India. Facilitating this have been two opposition ruled State Governments of Delhi and Punjab, and of course the initially tacit and now full-throated support of many opposition parties in India.

It has been painful for all concerned: the farmers who are at the forefront of the agitation, the Government of India, and for us who are witness to this high-profile battle.

The pain for this generation of citizens of the country will increase manifold if they could only understand what a historic opportunity has presented itself before us, and how it is being bled to death by both sides.

It can only be a fool who will come forward to proclaim that the current set of laws and rules governing farming activities in India are the best that can ever be. Had that been the case, we would never have been found debating on the issues of agrarian distress, farmer suicides, and lack of proper compensation to farmers over the last many years. The debates repeat with distressing regularity year after year, with no end in sight.

So what is the historical opportunity I talked about in the beginning? Perhaps never before have we seen this situation where the Government of the day had been browbeaten and virtually brought to its knees at one point by the protests of the farmers which had been largely peaceful till then, and by the intervention of the Supreme Court of India. The Government had declared-and still declares- its willingness to discuss all clauses of the farm reform bills with representatives of the farmers, and to incorporate all suggestions they wanted into the bills.

It was- and still remains to this day-a historic opportunity before the farmers to sit with the Government and hammer out what they actually needed to get over the perpetual state of agrarian distress in which we find ourselves with depressing regularity.

Yet what have we seen instead? A high-stakes, single-minded, blind call for repeal of the laws and restoring status quo. There is, astonishingly not a single debate anywhere about why the erstwhile laws should be considered to be the best that can be for the farmers.

So as one celebrity from the other side of the world so eloquently put it: why are we not taking about it? But this time we should be asking this of the supporters of the stir. What vested interest do you have that you want to let go of this historic opportunity to correct things once and for all?

The Government had already expressed willingness to sit with the farmers and work out all demands clause by clause. Why are you not using this chance to force the Government to agree to fully live, on-air deliberations on these farm bills? Let all experts, all the public see and hear everything-for and against. Let everybody witness a historic reworking of the legislation which could actually help farmers and their children for times to come.

The state of affairs as it stands now will only have one of two outcomes: either we go back to how things were before the bills were introduced, or the Government manages to wade through and keep the bills in their present form. Either way, the opportunity to have a bill of the farmers, for the farmers and by the farmers would have been lost for ever.

And that should weigh heavy on our conscience and our hearts. Whichever side we are supporting as on date. Because we have the chance, and we are letting it go. For our own selfish reasons. Or maybe just to gratify our inflated egos that we are right, and we will prove it, come what may.

And come what may it will be. Be prepared to once again discuss farmer suicides etc in the brutal summer seasons ahead. And be aware that we, this time, may be directly responsible for the deaths of these people.

I hope good sense prevails. And we sit at the table and get the best deal possible. Amen.

#farmprotests #farmreforms

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