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Amarinder is wrong; farmers’ agitation is not peaceful

Amarinder is wrong; farmers’ agitation is not peaceful

Dissent and agitation against the government are rights that individuals and groups in any democracy enjoy. But when some people abuse these rights to unleash chaos and disorder, their stir can scarcely be called just. Therefore, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s quip that on Constitution Day the constitutional right of farmers is being oppressed is not very accurate. Farmers have every right to protest against the Centre’s new farm laws—or any other decision—but when they get violent, the authorities also have the right and the duty to tackle the protest accordingly.

“Thousands of farmers, some armed with sticks and swords, flung barricades into a river, threw bricks at cops and physically pushed vehicles as they were stopped by Haryana on their way to a protest march in Delhi. After a two-hour clash on a bridge in which teargas and water cannons were used, the farmers managed to cross the border into Haryana,” NDTV website reported.

This gives the lie to the claims made by farmer leaders and Opposition parties that the protests wracking Punjab and Haryana are peaceful. Yet, Amarinder Singh has the temerity to tweet: “Why is @mlkhattar govt in Haryana stopping the farmers from moving to Delhi? The tyrannical use of brute force against peacefully protesting farmers is totally undemocratic & unconstitutional.”

Quite apart from the manner of the agitation, its objectives too are suspect. What do the protesters want? The three laws—the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act—are enabling provisions that empower the agriculturist from the existing rules and regulations regarding the sale of his produce.

The agitation would have been justified had the three laws did exist and the Narendra Modi government were about to abrogate them; but it is doing exactly the opposite; it is emancipating farmers from the laws which were formulated and enacted during the socialist era.

In fact, most experts, who served this government and the previous one, have been recommending meaningful reforms in agriculture. Economic Survey 2012-13, for example, made a strong case for opening up the sector: “In order to bring about reforms in the [organized marketing] sector, a model Agricultural Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) (APMC) Act was prepared in 2003. Though the process of market reforms has been initiated by different state governments through amendments in the present APMC Act on the lines of Model Act, many of the states are yet to adopt the Model Act uniformly. It is, therefore, necessary to complete the process of market reforms early in order to provide farmers an alternative competitive marketing channel for transaction of their agricultural produce at remunerative prices.”

The Modi government did the right thing to bring the three laws; they were the need of the hour. Besides, these are the biggest policy reforms that it has carried out in more than six years. This is the reason that professional revolutionaries like Yogendra Yadav and Medha Patkar are opposing it.

The Central and state governments must ensure that the agitation is carried out in a legal manner. The Punjab government under Amarinder Singh doesn’t see any illegality in any action of the agitators, but others should pull their socks up and tackle the stir properly..