Skip to main content

Farm laws: Modi has been taking decisions without consulting experts, stakeholders

By Ajit Singh*

In a surprise move, the Prime Minister of India in a video message that went live on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti announced to scrap three contentious farm laws in the upcoming winter session of Parliament. These laws were notified in September last year but put on hold due to widespread opposition, especially by farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
In a deeply polarized India, it was more than anticipated to see two kinds of reactions, discounting those Cabinet Ministers and government's mouthpieces for whom every decision is a masterstroke by their dear leader.
Some called it a victory of farmers who stood their ground in cold nights, under the scorching sun, continuing their resistance against an "autocratic" government that did not even shy away from using force, echoing propaganda to demonize the farmers' movement. They also declared the defeat of the mighty Modi-Shah bonhomie who miserably failed this time to corporatize the farming practices that would have helped their crony capitalist friends to suck up the agricultural profit, leaving the vulnerable farmers in misery and piles of huge debt to repay.
In a different camp, people showed remorse and criticized the government's decision to back off from its stance. They believed the farm laws would have revolutionized the agriculture sector, giving farmers freedom from the clutches of middlemen to sell their goods outside the mandi, and in the long run would have supported the annadata to adopt sustainable farming methods which in turn would have increased their revenues and helped them escape from the cycle of poverty.
The anger and expectations of this section is understandable. In the history of Independent India, BJP is only the second party after the Congress that managed to secure a majority twice in the Lok Sabha after a 25 year gap.
However, the fact is, the government is known for taking decisions without proper consultation with the stakeholders and independent policy experts. Five years back, on November 8, 2016, the government announced demonetization, which proved to be an economic blunder. India's GDP growth has been on a constant downward slope since Q4 FY17, and it plummeted to an 11-year low of 3.1% in Q4 FY20, just one month before when nationwide lockdown began in the last week of the same quarter.
Similarly, BJP's political decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A failed to accomplish any objectives. Tensions in Kashmir have returned to a boiling point. Targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits and non-Kashmiri residents are on the rise. The bloodbath has again forced families to flee from their homes in search of a new life like their closed ones did in the 1980s and 1990s.
The government's heavy-handed strategies against the Muslims of Kashmir has added fuel to fire. It was promised that scrapping the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir would lead to stability and progress in the Valley; on the contrary, two years since the controversial decision was made, defence experts have noted a sharp surge in militancy, as more locals are picking up guns to fight battles against the Indian state.
Both these decisions were projected as big, bold and decisive reforms in the right direction. However, due to lack of transparency and hastiness in decision making, these turned out to be hollow rhetoric which only helped BJP to garner votes in the Hindi heartland.
Consensus building is an important part of a democratic system. For a country like India where we have cultural, ethnic, religious, linguistic and other forms of diversity, it becomes necessary for the governments to engage in dialogue with people who will be most affected by decisions.
One is tempted to recall how in 1991 PV Narasimha Rao, then Prime Minister, defied popular opinion and embraced free market reforms. The brave decision gave a new impetus to India's economic momentum which was previously mocked at as Hindu rate of growth. This came at a time when India was still suffering from the hangover of socialism after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
In 2005, the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh faced opposition from its own coalition partners and opposition parties, especially BJP, yet he went ahead with the Civil Nuclear Deal, signed between US and India. It proved to be one of the major initiatives by the then government that helped India to secure membership in three of the four Multilateral Export Control Regimes (MECR).
Those who are in support of the farm laws pick out these two incidents from the pages of history. They say, if these two Prime Ministers didn't give up to the pressure and demands of coalition dharma and took brave steps in the interest of the the nation, then why would a party enjoying full majority surrender to the frivolous demands of farmers and opposition.
Due to lack of transparency and hastiness, Modi's decisions turned out to be hollow rhetoric which only helped BJP garner votes in Hindi heartland
They tend to ignore one thing: that objections and criticisms of the policy decisions taken by the government in 1991 and 2005 didn't take the lives of hundreds of people. The massive farmers protest garnered world attention. 
The government on its part resorted to McCarthyite witch hunt even as blaming the farmers of  being guided by Khalistani groups, blamed of developing toolkits, fourth generation warfare or some global conspiracy to malign India's image on the international stage. It is difficult to understand why it did not initiate talks with the farmers or listen to them.
Now, as the government is on the backfoot, the farmer groups are trying their best to milk the situation for all it's worth. Sustainable agricultural reforms, not stagnation, alone can pave the way for a prosperous Indian economy. All one needs is an inclusive law, where all the affected parties are involved and have proper discussion in Parliament before passing any such laws. Voice vote amidst chaos is not democracy.
The withdrawal of the three farm laws is surely a political decision of BJP. Assembly elections are down the line next year, and to remain in power in Uttar Pradesh, which is also the nerve centre of Indian politics, it has to hold together the Jat votes of western UP that could have split among parties if they had gone ahead with these laws.
Be that as it may, backing down from implementing reforms has again established the well known fact that there is no alternative to discussion, debate and dissent in democracy. The government may get away or succeed sometimes in hampering the democratic process but I cannot take its majority support in the house for granted. It should know: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
---
*Hobbyist writer who has graduated in economics, sophomore in B Ed programme

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p