To arrive at a solution, you first need to identify the problem.
This phrase can be correlated with the ongoing Farmer Protests, who are sitting at the Delhi borders now for over 45 days. Seeing their grit and determination, any sane person would likely think that there are some serious issues with the Farms Act 2020, which need to be addressed as soon as possible, and the BJP government is doing a terrible job when it comes to treating the Anndata of our country.
However, the ground reality is not what anyone would expect. When reached Delhi in the last week of November, the group of farmers from Punjab and Haryana raised several concerns on contract farming, APMC, MSP etc, over the three farms bills passed by the government in September 2020. Even though many notable academicians, experts, and many farmer groups across the country have welcomed the Farmers Bill, it would be fair to say that some of the farmers’ concerns were valid and should be discussed and debated. And because of this, without any doubt, the emotions of the majority of the population went with the farmers because of our agrarian roots.
Although I would argue here that we shouldn’t be looking at policies from an emotional perspective, rather it should be based on studies and data/facts. I propose we debate ideas on their merits rather than on how we feel about the people who proposed them. The world is too complex to be understood from an emotional angle and that’s why we need facts on such wide topics as Farmers Bill, on which discussions have been going on for the past two decades. Needless to say, the bills were, at last, the result of those discussions.
Nonetheless, as the official talks between the government and farmers’ representatives went ahead, things started to unfold. Some of the protesters wished for the death of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some of them were seen demanding the release of Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and some of the miscreants went ahead to destroy around 1500 Reliance Jio towers in Punjab. The farmer’s representatives mediating with the government, on the other hand, were adamant on their demands of repealing all the three laws. They are still standing by this and treating this whole game as a binary system with inputs, 0 and 1. The idea of bringing up their concerns in front of the government officials and discussing it seems to have lost, even when the government is open to discuss the laws point-wise. In aggregate, these situations raise doubts as to whether the farmer groups even have any problems with the Farm Act or whether it is just a part of a propaganda using which they want to fuel the Anti-CAA-like narrative in the global space.
Sadly, as the days pass by, the protesters have been exposed bit-by-bit. The central government after six rounds of talks agreed on two terms, excluding farmers from penal provisions of the Air Quality Management ordinance and not pursuing the draft Electricity Bill 2020. Even after the Supreme Court of India meddled into the situation on 12th Jan 2020 and stayed the laws for now and formed a committee to address the farmer’s concerns diligently, the protestors have remarked that they welcome the stay but will not join the committee and continue the protest. The question that arises is, are these protestors even interested in finding a solution? Or it is just about creating an unrest in the country by the separatists, the leftists, and the opposition. Why are they steadfast on repealing all three “Black Laws”?
The question that strikes is if these are the so called “Black Laws”, why were the same unions who are protesting now demanding the same laws in past? Why is the opposition so vocal now? Even they wanted to bring these laws into place as mentioned in their 2019 election manifesto. Several politicians have asked the central government over the past decade to implement these laws. Seems like the only problem here is that BJP brought these laws and somehow they are “evil”. They might bring something else in the future like removing government-controlled mandis, because they are “evil”. To be fair, there is no single justification for this claim. On one hand, we have studies done by experts and researchers in this field from the past two decades that show these are the right steps for our drowning agricultural economy whereas, on the other hand, we have claims which as of now can’t be proved. Whom shall we trust? At this point, I would recall what Milton Freidman, a Noble Memorial Prize winning Economist, said:
“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
In this highly polarized world, where people subscribing to different ideologies are not even interested in debating and discussing any contentious argument, how will we ever reach a middle ground? In this tribalism where every individual is busy earning brownie points for his/her own tribe, there is no space for nuance. Pragmatically, not every situation is black and white, not every dialogue is either 0 or 1, solutions to most of the questions lie in the middle.
We still don’t know when and how will this end, will the protestors agree with the government’s terms or the government will bend down, only time will tell. But for now, with consecutive Anti-CAA protests in 2019 and Farmers protest in 2020, the road ahead for the World’s largest democracy seems bleak. The central government is losing control over the masses and is unable to communicate effectively. Utilizing the government’s weakness for their own good, the opposition has been effective in spreading the narrative they want, be it in Anti-CAA riots or Farmers Protests. The government’s inability in handling the law in this country has also been exposed, and that is where the left is capitalizing.
Clearly, these protests could have been controlled and handled well. In the future, if the government does not learn from its mistakes, which I highly doubt, we are bound to see a lot more such protests, which definitely won’t be “peaceful”.