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CAA, NJAC & Farm Laws; India needs to introduce referendum system for making big reforms

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I, Rahul Kumar Jha, currently working at Ministry of Defence as an Auditor. I am from Bihar. I write on various issues.

Recently Farm Laws were withdrawn by the Modi Government in pretext of ongoing agitations by farmers at various places. The importance of this agitation was mainly decided by the number of people joined the protest and how long they could sustain before Govt. finally repealed it. While there were lakhs of farmers of roads and they called it a protest by farmers of India, one can argue against this on the basis that this protest was mainly derived from farmers of Punjab, Haryana and West UP. No one can say that farmers of these three states represent all farmers of India. Why would a farmer from Bihar, WB or Odisha oppose this law when he is not the beneficiaries of current Mandi system? While there were some groups of farmers who supported it publically; the large no of supporting farmers might not have hit the roads showing their support. It is always the case when people support something, they don’t come on roads. So how can India be ascertain that how much percentage of its population actually support a move by Govt. or how much actually disapprove it?


Whenever a protest happens, its organizer would insist that people of India is supporting of their demand. How can it be established at first? India having a more than 1.3 billion people, it will never be a tough task for groups to organize some lakhs of people of roads and it can be for any demand, be it rational or irrational. Like the demand of reservations by ruling class viz Patels in Gujarat and Marathas in Maharashtra. Both the groups have failed to show any data as to why they should be given reservations at all, yet there were lakhs of people on roads demanding their irrational demands. It is not a secret that when a protest happens for some demands, leaders of protest would always try to make it look like pan India agitation but the people who are against it, they would rarely hit the ground in against of demands. Yes there are exceptions like OBC reservations, when Upper Caste hits on ground objecting it but most of the time they don’t come on road especially when the outcome doesn’t directly affect the other group. For example, overturning of Shah Bano Case, those who thought it was wrong for Muslims to demand its overturn, they didn’t come on road to say so. They remain basically mute spectators. Similarly, when the liberation of Indian economy happened in 1990, people who were opposed of it, they went to protest but those who were supportive of it, they didn’t come on road for showing their support. This is the inherent behavior of people, when they support something, they just don’t show it vehemently and that is where problems start in a democracy.


When Britain was discussion Brexit, people opposing it hit on roads; they organize program, attracted celebrities, held many discussion and at one time it was seemed that British people don’t want Brexit. But the reality was completely different. People who were supporting of it, they remain mute spectators but all thanks to referendum system in Britain, they could register their support and Britain finally came out of it. I am not discussing whether it was right or wrong, my point is that it is not necessary what the protestors want to convey, it has to be the reality. Imagine if Britain didn’t have referendum system, any Government going for it would have perceived as going against the will of people (Actually will of opponents). All thanks to this system, it got done through by a democratic setup.


India does hold its one and last referendum after Independence in 1967 while deciding the fate of Goa whether it will join Maharashtra or continue to be a separate territory of India. People of Goa decided to remain a union territory and finally became a full-fledged state in 1987. So we have the precedent, though it was in a small scale. Seeing the progress India made in recent decades, India can hold much larger referendum.


I am not anywhere implying that people shouldn’t do protest in a democratic manner. Of course they have every right to do so. But they can’t simply claim that people of pan India are in their support (as they usually do), nor they should be allowed to dictate terms based on no. of people on roads. A group shouldn’t be allowed to interpret a law according to its convenience. Any law is not like a math formula, that 2+2 has to be 4. Any law can be interpreted by different people differently and if one group, just because it has more people to come on road, be allowed to dictate its interpretation, is not good for a democracy. When a law became contentious, it is better to ask people whether they want or not, here people mean people of India through a referendum system, not the way protestors want us to believe.  Yes, I admit that it won’t be possible for government to hold referendum for every contentious decisions but it can hold it for big decisions like farm laws. Farm laws were brought after 20 years of consultations of various stock holder including farmers and agriculture expert. It was meant to change overall structure of farming in India. Yet, it was repealed because some lakhs of farmers portray themselves as representative of pan India farmers and people made to believe them.


When protestors argue that a law is in violation of constitution like recently for CAA or NRC, the main question it to be asked that who would decide whether a Law is constitutionally valid or not. Law experts have always differed on constitutional validity of a law. For example, on one side law experts like Sanjay Hedge  and Prashant Bhusan claimed that CAA is in violation of article 14, on other hand people like Sr. Advocate Harish salve,  Nachiket Joshi, J. Sai Deepak argued that special provision can be made for certain refugees and constitution allows it. Nevertheless constitutional validity of a law can’t be decided on road, only Hon’ble Supreme court can decide it. We can argue on Supreme Court’s decisions, but there has to be a last point.

But lets assume, if the law is not about constitutional validity rather it is about a policy decision, then who would finally decide whether these policies are good or not, of course people of India including people who can’t afford to be roads.


Like-minded people assembled as protestors don’t necessarily represent thinking of pan India. There is a high chance that people who are against of demands of protestors choose to criticize them (protestors) while sitting in their rooms or working by their desk or by writing in social medial. Nevertheless that doesn’t make them any less Indian and their voices should also be included while deciding the fate of this country. A law that has potential to change overall picture of India must include each voice supportive or opposing in a same level. We would never know what the Majority of Indian farmers thought of farm laws. If not referendum, we would never know what the Majority of population think about CAA or NRC (not talking about its constitutional validity, it is a different matter). By any means, contested big policy decision should be left on people to decided, and it must include all citizens.


Referendum can act as a channel between protestors, Government and people of India. It will also help in stopping a precedent that if a no of people sit on road; it will ultimately bring down the government to accept their demand. Referendum not only provides voices to each and every citizen of India, it will also assuage all time revolutionaries who think only they have ultimate right to interpret a law or a policy decision.  Referendum system also generates political awareness among the masses.

It is a tough task indeed and there is lot to be done before re-introducing it, yet it should be done one way or another. There is no other way to know what the people of India actually think about a decision. Some lakhs of people shouldn’t be allowed to decide fate of 1.3 billion people of India.

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I, Rahul Kumar Jha, currently working at Ministry of Defence as an Auditor. I am from Bihar. I write on various issues.
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