The Indian government has once again reached out to the tens of thousands of farmers that have been protesting by New Delhi’s borders for almost a month, defying the capital’s cold winter to demand the abolition of three contentious farm laws. The agriculture ministry expressed its dedication to accomplishing a logical solution and invited farmers to decide a date for continued debate.
The three controversial laws included reforms that would facilitate barrier-free inter-state trade while supplying a construct for e-trading of agriculture produce; a contract for direct marketing; and a deregulation of production, storage, movement, and sale of various primal provisions. These laws were passed in September with barely any discussion, in the midst of a boycott from resistance within the parliament, where the governing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) holds a majority.
The government argues that these new laws will help modernize the industry while increasing farmers’ salary. However, farmers are skeptical, fearing the new reforms ease crop storage and marketing regulations to give large corporations favor from the free market. According to Al Jazeera, leaders of farmer unions say the new laws would put an end to state-regulated crop buying and government-set minimum prices for farmers’ produce. “We don’t believe in the government’s assurances, we want concrete proposals, not meaningless amendments … These laws are a death warrant for farmers,” union leader Darshan Pal said.
Moreover, farmer unions are accusing the government of attempting to debilitate and discredit them by depicting protesters as “anti-nationals.” An alliance of farmer unions called Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or United Farmers’ Front, said in a statement on Thursday, “You are dealing with protesting farmers in a manner as if they are not aggrieved citizens but political rivals.” Ashutosh Mishra, spokesman for a forum of farmer unions, explained that protesters are preparing for a long struggle, as groups are taking turns demonstrating in the capital.
Considering the farmers’ dissatisfaction, the government proposed to modify the new reforms and stated that the regulated purchase and support prices of crops would remain. However, protesters are demanding that the laws be abolished. The dispute between both parties had the government open up the opportunity for new talks, with the intention of establishing a logical solution at the time and place chosen by farmer union leaders. In a statement given to Indian media reports, the agriculture ministry’s top official wrote, “I would once again like to stress that the government has spoken to you with open mind on the issues raised by you and is ready to do so in future as well. Please let us know the date and time, as convenient to you, for the next round.”
For several years, the relationship between India’s government and farmers has been characterized by conflict and distrust. More than half of the Indian population works on farms, but farming itself accounts for only a sixth of the country’s G.D.P. In an interview given to the B.B.C., the food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma explained that farmers fear big corporations will destroy them. “The anger over injustice to farmers was brewing. Now it’s getting channelized through this protest against the new laws,” Mr. Sharma says.
In order to solve the conflict, the laws must be re-considered, and a new solution must be established. An open conversation between the two parties is crucial, as the government must hear the farmers’ desires and take them into account. It is in India’s best interest to build its country on fair reforms that benefit all aspects of society.
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