At least in this case, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The standoff over farm reforms, which has entered its second month, is set to continue. With the Prime Minister last Friday virtually ruling out the repeal of the three farm reform legislations, the Punjab farmers have no option but to continue their siege of the capital. That is unless better sense prevails and they abandon their maximalist demand for the outright repeal of the reform laws.
In his remarks last Friday, Modi did not slam the door on further engaging the farmers but made it plain that they should offer facts and reason to support their demands. Thus far, the farmer’s unions have failed to present a cogent case to buttress their demand for the repeal of the agriculture sector reforms. It is clear they have created a veritable movement in Punjab on a sheer miasma of fear.
Modi took digs at his opponents who were crying themselves hoarse in support of the farmers’ protest. If retaining the antiquated Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees Act was so crucial for the welfare of the farmers, he asked, why was there no APMC Act in Kerala. Besides, there was no move to abolish the APMC mandis. No, not at all. These were sought to be supplemented by private mandis competing in a fair and transparent manner with the APMC mandis and subject to the same taxes and fees as them.
Commonsense economics dictates that multiple choices for sellers yield better and competitive prices for their goods. But if the farmers are bent on indefinitely suffering the stranglehold of traders/arthiyas, there is nothing to be said. Yet, the present siege cannot be allowed to continue for long. It imposes economic costs on the country and disrupts the normal life of millions of citizens. No government should allow the public roads and highways blocked in the name of a democratic protest. This has to end.
But given the intransigence and unreasonableness of the Punjab farmers, the onus is on the Government to find an amicable solution. Which, under the circumstances, can be the grant of option to the States on the implementation of the three farm legislations. In this case, let the BJP-ruled States implement the reforms while others such as the Congress-ruled Punjab can continue to operate their farm markets without the benefit of the reforms. Such a compromise would persuade the Punjab farmers to lift the siege while the Centre would still have the opportunity to showcase the gains from the implementation of the new laws.
It may not be the ideal compromise but when someone is determined to cut the very branch of the tree they are perched on and refuses to be reasoned out of it, it is best to leave them to suffer the consequences. Let the implementation of reforms be left to the discretion of individual States and call off the illogical stir.