Centre's Procurement Policy Over The Years Is Not Without Blame In Making Some Cultivators Think They Are More Entitled Than Others
There are no justifications, economic, moral or ethical for supporting a policy of transfers by the Union government only to farmers of few states.
What has transpired in Delhi must be condemned by everyone – and I believe many would eventually condemn it while some select few may try to rationalise the developments to suit their self-interest.
We must now recognise the importance of enforcing law and order irrespective of the situation – and recognise that political freedom to protest must not become a tool to galvanise mobs on the streets of our cities.
Peaceful protests in designated spots while negotiating with the government is what is the norm in any respected, mature democracy. We need to achieve the same in our country and disown the “bandh–hartaal- chaka jam” brand of protests.
Disruption must be viewed as it is – a disruption and not a legitimate protest.
We must also accept the limitations imposed on our state capacity as an outcome of our misplaced priorities.
The problem of misplaced priorities is a legacy issue – but one that has to be dealt with swiftly and boldly.
Our government expenditure is too busy in financing hotels, telecom services, airlines and other businesses – and when it is not busy there it is busy in extending badly designed and targeted subsidies.
A good example of badly designed and badly targeted subsidy is the agricultural subsidy that is extended to farmers of only a few states – namely Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
The developments on 26 January 2021 should convince the government of what was stated by several over the last few weeks – that is, these are not farmer protests but protests by a select group of special interests. Thus, it has to be dealt in the way we would deal with a special interest group.
The government tried to arrive at a middle ground but since the protestors are not interested in finding a solution it must take back its offer to hold the laws for a temporary period.
These laws have the support of vast number of farmers across the country – of subject matter experts and practically every economic thinker. Till recently there was even political consensus on these reforms and thus, taking a step back makes little sense going forward.
The government should come out and state that the laws stay as they are.
More than this, it is important to take an honest stock of the present situation so far as our farm policy is considered.
The over-entitled farmers of select states have taken the largesse of the taxpayers for granted for far too long – and there are no justifications, economic, moral or ethical for supporting a policy of transfers by the Union government only to farmers of few states.
That is, government should relook at its procurement policy and distribute it fairly across the country depending on the value of the marketable surplus that is produced in each state.
This has been repeatedly suggested by Dr Surjit S Bhalla in his numerous conversations/articles and tweets over the last few months along with others such as Harsh Gupta etc.
The policy of a fiscal transfer to select few states must come to an end now – as there is a recognition that the erstwhile system is unjust to our farmers in states such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal or pretty much any other state except for the three states that absorb a majority of the funds for public procurement.
What transpired yesterday should be condemned but mere condemnation will not be enough as we need more than just empty words – we need strict law enforcement along with a revisit of our procurement policies.
It is about time we abandon the policy which has resulted in an unjust system and has ensured rapid depletion of water tables in a few states thereby pointing at unsustainable nature of farming practices that are adopted as a consequence of these subsidies.
Here’s hoping that people will realise the importance of these policy changes – along with a recognition of the fact that whatever occurred in Delhi was wrong and those responsible must be prosecuted.
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