Memo To BJP: If No Clearing Of Roads, No Repealing Of Laws
The new start Prime Minister spoke about must begin with an end to the illegal occupation of streets and highways.
Risking significant political capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the parliamentary proceedings to repeal the three farm laws will be initiated in the upcoming session. For almost a year, the politics in northern India had been centred around the three farm laws, given the protests at Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri.
At the peak of the protests around January earlier this year, the country witnessed large-scale vandalism in the National Capital as farmers carried out their tractor rally.
There were also confirmed reports about a woman’s gang rape, and more recently, a man’s hand being chopped off before he was murdered in public view. Barring these gruesome crimes, there has been significant economic loss around Singhu, to the tune of a thousand crores of rupees, due to the illegal occupation of the highway and the settlements there, resembling a mini-city almost.
Ironically, the three farm laws, contentious because of the suggested role the private sector could play in an otherwise socialism-shackled agricultural setup, are already implemented across different states under different state laws.
What makes this contention against the private sector is that it has been boiled down to only the MSP and nothing else. No one cares if 94 per cent of the farmers are outside the purview of MSP, or that MSP is only for around two-dozen crops, or that we already have farmers successfully partnering with the private sector. Fruits, vegetables, livestock, and fisheries, and even some MSP crops are procured by the private sector, especially in Punjab.
While spokespersons of all parties, including that of the government, media personalities, and several other stakeholders reduced the contract farming part of the law to mere procurement of the produce, it would have had a net positive impact on physical and digital infrastructure, investments, logistics, technology, warehousing and cold storage, employment, and income growth for the farmers.
Yet, the Prime Minister, under no moral, social, economic, cultural, or political obligation, chose to be the bigger person and after offering the farmers a farm of carrots decided to break the stick and throw it in the nearby canal. From the government and leadership perspective, Modi staked it all, even offering an apology alongside.
However, the Prime Minister and his government owe no apology to the thankless farmers of Punjab who have had their fortunes and egos inflated by an MSP that is as delinked to market prices as the crypto prices to the real world currencies, and spoilt by the endless subsidies in the form of electricity and water, even at the cost of depleting groundwater levels and land degradation.
Truth be told, Modi was doing a favour to the farmers of Punjab by saving them from an imminent ecological disaster that would render their wheat and paddy cultivating capacity futile a few years from now.
So, does the repealing of the farm laws end the illegal occupation of highways around the national capital?
The farm leaders, fuelled by the validation given to the street veto by the government itself, are in no mood to clear the highways. Already, they have shifted the goalpost, stating that the protest was not about the farm laws, but the MSP, credit waivers, and everything else but the three farm laws. The face of the protests, Rakesh Tikait, and several other political parties have made it abundantly clear that the roads shall not be cleared.
Clearly, they don’t care for the apology from the Prime Minister, or for the loss to Punjab’s agriculture in the long run. Therefore, what’s the next obvious step for the BJP?
The Prime Minister made it clear that he introduced the laws for the farmers but is taking them back for the country, perhaps hinting at a security threat in this cryptic statement. However, the government must double down on the threat, and given the protesters a fortnight to vacate the roads entirely.
Trust, on the negotiating table, works both ways. If the government is willing to unload an entire farm of carrots and burning the stick, the protesters have no right to continue to the illegal occupation. Even for the mini-city Singhu has become, a fortnight is enough for the farmers to wrap up and head back to their villages.
The demands of the farmers for MSP to be legalised, for an MSP for anything that grows under the sun, for credit waivers, for subsidies, for stubble burning, and even the demands being made on the behest of the activists protesting CAA and Article 370 must be given an attentive ear only after the sites have been cleaned up completely.
What will hurt BJP today is not the delay in the implementation of the laws, but the validation street veto and hooliganism will enjoy in the garb of free speech.
Therefore, the new start Prime Minister spoke about must begin with an end to the illegal occupation of streets and highways for the government is under no obligation to cater to the demands of the protesters even when they threaten the state, and shackle a region with social and economic backwardness.
BJP’s stance must be clear. If no clearing of roads, then no repealing of the farm laws.
A political stalemate, even at the cost of reforms, is any day better than validated anarchy, at the cost of law and order.
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