December 11, 2021 - 6:22 am

The End Of The Farm Protest 

After intense negotiations initiated by the Union home ministry, the farmers protesting at the borders of the national capital have finally decided to draw the curtains on their over a year-long agitation, including the non-repealed three farm acts. This comes in the wake of the Centre accepting all demands put forward by the protesting farmers, including the withdrawal of all agitation-related cases and compensation to the families of farmers who had died during the course of the movement against the contentious agriculture laws.

                      The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) - an amalgamation of various farmer union spearheading the protests - announced "suspension" of the stir following a letter from the Union agriculture ministry on all the points of discord; it also assured to continue with the current system of minimum support price (MSP) and promised to form a committee on MSP which will include representatives from the federal and state governments, agriculture scientists and farmer groups. The Centre has also agreed to drop all police cases against farmers - this includes stubble burning complaints and those filed by Haryana and UP in connection with violent clashes with security forces over the past several months.

                      The protest had presented an unprecedented political crisis for the NDA government, including the loss of a key ally and drawn the attention of the Supreme Court. The government had decided that its maturity in the house and its well meaning intentions were enough, that those who had questions about the laws were either brain-washed by sister forces or didn't know better. The protestors ultimately prevailed & forced the PM to publicly announce the repeal of the laws. The government should not see this as a defeat but as a learning. That in a constitutional democracy, reforms, especially in agriculture where land is a key factor, need negotiation and accommodation, humility and generosity.

                     Government at the centre and the states have preferred to ride on electoral sops such as free power and enhanced MSP is to win over farmers rather than address the structural issues that plague the sector which employs a large share of India's workforce. Engaging the farming community as an equal may help the government to build the climate to reform. All reforms need sugar pills, bitterness doesn't help. The end of the protests, therefore, should mark a new beginning.