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Deadlock over Farm Laws

It has been five days since farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh blocked the highways running into the national capital, Delhi. Two of the five main arteries are completely cut off . This includes the all important highway which links the national capital with the north western states of Punjab, Haryana and  Himachal Pradesh and the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The farmers are agitating against the farm reform laws pushed through Parliament by the Narendra Modi government. The three pieces of legislation, the government says, open up more avenues for the farmers to sell their produce. Earlier, the farmer was obliged to sell his produce through the mandis set up under the APMC Act. Now, the claim is, that the farmer can sell his produce all over the country, through whatever mechanism he prefers.

But the farmers are not buying this argument. They fear that the new marketing regime pushed forward by the legislation will lead to the dismantling of the mandi structure over a period of time. And with it will go the system of minimum support price built up over the past decades.The farmers also fear that the new system will leave the door open for the entry of the corporate sector or big business into the agricultural economy, leading eventually to the exploitation of the farming community. Most farmers, they say, have small land holdings and would not benefit from the new regimen.

The farmers want the government to amend the new laws to protect the minimum support price, MSP, structure.The Narendra Modi dispensation says that it is prepared to talk to the farmers on their demands. But for immediate talks, the government wants the farmers to leave the highways and go to a designated place, the Nirankari ground in Burari. The farmers have rejected this plea, saying that it will be like being confined to an open jail.

The deadlock over talks between the government and the farmers bodes ill for the people and the economy already suffering the adverse effects of Covid-19. If the Narendra Modi dispensation stands on prestige on the question of talks with the farmers, it will be committing a big blunder.There is need for immediate and unconditional talks between the government and the farmers to resolve the impasse.

 

(Political Analyst)


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