Unilateralism of Modi, SKM's hard stance may yield no fruit; solution requires new approach to farmers

India badly needs reforms in agriculture and agri-market sectors, and the right dose of reform would emerge only when we resort to multilateralism involving all stakeholders

Representative Image (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Representative Image (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Gyan Pathak

Within a few days of unilateral announcement of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the three controversial farm laws, the whole range of issues relating to farms and farmers have become complicated. The reasons on the surface is unilateralism of Modi and hardening stance of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) but the deep underneath there are several long unsolved issues, the solution of which requires a new approach to farm and farmers.

Modi’s unilateral announcement of repeal of the three farm laws came on Guruparva, November 19, after a very strong defence for over a year, and suddenly in his typical style when it was least expected both by his supporters and his opponents. He even talked about benefits of the laws, and apologized to the nation for his government’s shortcomings in efforts that could not convince some farmers about the truth. The pragmatics of his language point clearly to his ‘strategic retreat’ and everything else said in his support or against reflect the mindset of the conjecturers.

One thing is clear that his ‘strategic retreat’ could not yield the result he might have expected regarding the farmers’ year long agitation. His unilateralism could not even bridge the widened mistrust between him and the agitating farmers. SKM, the umbrella organizations of the farmers, has declared within hours that their agitation would continue and they would wait until the Parliament of India actually repeals the three farm laws. PM Modi has called the farmers for ending their agitation, but was of no avail, chiefly due to the trust deficit.

And there were numerous reasons for the farmers not believing Modi, and his government. The ‘strategic retreat’ inherently included ‘strategic failure’. Unilateralism with insistence on only his being right and agitating farmers wrong is no answer to bilateralism or multilateralism, especially when numerous issues are involved, not only keeping or repealing some particular laws. Any sustainable amicable resolution of issues involve very good inter-personal relationship between the two disagreeing parties, and unilateralism is indeed a bad strategy is such situations.

How bad Modi’s unilateralism was evident within hours of announcement when the SKM said, “The agitation of farmers is not just against the repeal of the three black laws, but also for a statutory guarantee to remunerative prices for all agricultural produce and for all farmers. This important demand of farmers is still pending.” This hardening of stance of SKM is but humiliating for Modi, but he must understand as a politician that unilateralism does not work without any proper agreement between the parties, in the present case, between the farmers’ representative and the government.

And such an agreement is important at this point of time, when several new issues have cropped up during the yearlong agitation apart from the long standing unresolved issues of the farmers and the farm sector. Modi government and SKM must enter into some agreement for amicable solution to those issues.

Within two days of Modi’s announcement, ie on November 21, SKM has shot off an open letter to Prime Minister Modi, which contains six important issues, while asking the Modi government to resume talks. “Till then, the SKM will continue the agitation as per pre-decided programmes,” the letter read. It means, despite the “strategic retreat” on political consideration, Modi, the BJP, and their allies may not derive the political benefit of the same in the coming assembly elections including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, since farmers are to continue their campaign against them.

The issue of death of about 700 farmers during their agitation and numerous cases filed against farmers, their leaders, and many others by several states and UTs were not even mentioned by the Prime Minister. It is also Modi’s strategic failure not to announce withdrawal of all cases against those who were facing the charges of even sedition only for opposing his three controversial farm laws, which he insisted were beneficial for farmers, but are going to be withdrawn. PM Modi even did not announce to compensate the farmers or others for loss of their lives and properties. It would not easy to forget all these that farmers and others suffered.

Then there are three other important demands of the farmers – C2+FL formula for ascertaining the minimum support price for all farm produce, shelving of the new amendments to the Electricity Act, and removal of the penal provisions in the law to ensure air quality in the national capital region.

Presently, the government calculates the cost of cultivation as per A2+FL formula which includes the paid-out costs incurred by a farmer and the value of family labour, and that too is not applicable for all agricultural produce. The demand for C2+FL formula has therefore become important which would require to include the imputed cost of capital and the rent on the land and the value of family labour to give farmers 50 per cent return for not only a few but whole range of crops. The issues relating to electricity to farmers and stubble burning are also ticklish, resolution of which would need multilateral talks because several states are also involved in these matters.

What we need at this point of time is that both the PM Modi and his government should not shy away from talks with farmers and states to sort out the real issues the farmers and the farm sector have been facing for a long time. Political narrowness, as the unilateral announcement of the PM Modi reveals, would not yield the desired fruit for himself, his party, or his any other favourite entity, if not followed up with large heartedness and wisdom. India badly needs reforms in agriculture and agri-market sectors, and the right dose of reform would emerge only when we resort to multilateralism involving all stakeholders.

(IPA Service

Views are personal)

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