A year ago the three agricultural laws were passed rather hastily in parliament. The laws were enacted as ordinances in June and then turned into bills for parliamentary approval. That was rushed without much discussion or debate. In the case of laws that are described as far-reaching reforms, should a discussion have been allowed?
The government’s answer is that the underlying issues had long been known and discussed, as if there was no point in wasting any more time discussing them. With the ruling party having its numbers to get a majority, the bills were passed and received the approval of the president. Proponents cited this passing of the farm laws as an example of bold reform and praised the government’s ability to take this risk and spend political capital.
This is a narrow and misguided assessment. Reforms through consensus are better than reforms through stealth or brute majority power. Especially in areas that directly affect half of the country’s population. In addition, according to the constitution, agriculture is a subject of the state, so building a consensus is essential. Opposition to the regulation had already started in June. And then, in September, from the day the three laws were passed, broader protests and agitation began.
Like the law, the agitation against them is a year old. It survived a cold winter, rain and floods, internet blockades and a lot of police work. There have been more than eight consecutive rounds of negotiations between the government and farmers’ representatives to find a middle ground. All of these rounds failed.
In January the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the law and appointed a committee of experts to suggest the way forward for implementation. In December, much of the global media described the outcry as the largest peasant protest in the world. That month, an estimated 250 million people across the country responded in solidarity with the protest. One CNN columnist, with such massive support, wondered if Black lives count or I also could be a global trend, why weren’t India’s farm protests global?
A young activist was arrested for distributing a “toolkit” for organizing protests! The internet has occasionally been turned off to make it more difficult for farmers to get their message across. The government threatened Twitter with banning dozens of accounts, which the American social networking service followed. A recent rally in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh drew over a million participants. The excitement persists and the positions have hardened. The repeal of the three farm laws is their demand, nothing less. Critics claim that the support base is quite small and only represents the interests of large farmers and established lobbies of middlemen in Punjab and Haryana.
“General student. Certified food scholar. Falls down a lot. Subtly charming communicator. Wannabe music fanatic.”