The good thing is that the protesting farmers and the Government are now talking. The first round, held at the Vigyan Bhawan on Tuesday, proved inconclusive. They agreed to meet again on Thursday. The leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), Joginder Singh, said the talks would continue till a solution was found to the mutual satisfaction of both sides.
The problem is the lack of unity among farmers. With nearly three dozen unions, it may be hard to narrow down the differences of approach to successfully negotiate a commonly agreed end to the farmers’ stir against the three farm legislations. The minimum demand of protesters is a guarantee on the continuation of the Minimum Support Price for various crops. Though mainly farmers in Punjab are beneficiaries of the MSP system, especially for wheat and kharif crops, they have sought to make it out as though the entire farming community is opposed to the reforms.
The truth is the reform legislations do not mention even edgeways MSP --- and government ministers have repeatedly said the system would continue --- protesting farmers suspect it will be discontinued in the near future. Opposition parties and the Congress-ruled Punjab Government have aggravated the situation, fuelling suspicions and distrust of the farm sector reforms. As the Prime Minister said in Varanasi on Monday, farmers are being misled for narrow partisan ends.
As Modi put it, the protest is not against what has been done. No, it is against what might be done in future. Regardless, the immediate challenge remains as to how to end the stir which has caused a virtual siege of the capital from its major entry points. If not ended soon, it could cause a shortage of essential supplies. On its part, the Government could have helped the cause of reforms had it first engaged with the farmers’ representatives rather than after passing the laws. Consensual decision-making ought to be an integral part of government-functioning, not unilateral acts, even if those are for the welfare of the people.