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Little is to be gained by prolonging the ongoing confrontation between a large section of farmers and the central government. The farmers have stuck, so far, to the maximalist demand of repealing the three farm laws the government has newly legislated, whereas the government has made significant concessions. The government has offered to hold the new laws in abeyance for one-and-a-half years, during which all matters can be discussed relating to the new laws. It is up to the farmers to take the government up on its offer to suspend the laws till next June.
Now, it is common sense that holding the laws in abeyance till shortly before important state assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and one-and-a-half years before the next general elections are due effectively means suspending the operation of the contentious laws for the remainder of this government’s term. This is a very major concession. At one point, agriculture minister Tomar is reported to have invited the Unions to negotiate, during the period when the laws are held in abeyance, all contentious issues, including whether to repeal the laws or not. The farmers should match the step retreated by the government from its rigid position and agree to withdraw the agitation pending early negotiations with the government on everything related to enhancing the livelihoods dependent on farming. For the government, the farmers’ agitation is a global embarrassment. For the farmers, to agitate in the cold of the Delhi winter is to suffer extreme hardship, to which, some have succumbed.
The time bought by suspending the agitation and the three farm laws must be utilised to create a vibrant new link between farmers and their end-consumers. The government’s promise to double the farmer’s income by 2022 depends on creating market linkages for agriculture. That means building warehouses that can issue receipts and building a power grid that would supply power even during the day, to fuel a new revolution in rural value addition.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.