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Yogi doesnt waste the corona crisis, initiates labor, farm reforms

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

At this time of crisis when many a political leader has been exposed as incompetent, dictatorial, and clueless, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has shown tremendous administrative acumen in managing the Covid-19 pandemic in the most populous state of India. In fact, he is not just battling the disease but also, as the phrase goes, not wasting the crisis.

He has taken a number of decisions that, if executed properly, would unleash the entrepreneur spirits in the state and bring in prosperity. Yogi was the first Chief Minister to grasp the fact that the anti-China feeling and ensuing flight of industry from the Asian giant afforded a big opportunity to Indian states. Much before than any other state could even think of capitalizing on this crisis, his administration began planning a special package to attract multinational companies which wanted to shift units out of China.

He is also working on a strategy to ensure employment at home for lakhs of migrants who have come back due to the lockdown. The target is to generate more than 15 lakh jobs back home. He is liberalizing by cutting through the license-quota-permit maze. He has approved an ordinance which exempts businesses from all but thee labor laws—the ones pertaining to the protection against bonded labor, rights to timely payment of wages, and workers compensation.

This is something economists have been talking for decades; sensible politicians even accepted the importance of reforms in labor laws but few among them had the courage to execute them. The saffron-clad pontiff of the Gorakhnath Peeth has done what professional politicians couldn’t. Reforms don’t pertain to industry only.

The UP government has also approved sweeping changes to laws dealing with agricultural markets. From the erstwhile Planning Commission to its successor, Niti Aayog, every institution and think tank has been clamoring for this reform but again politicians of all parties showed little inclination to carry them out. UP amended the Mandi Act that has been the bane of farmers and a source of earning for officials and middlemen. As per the existing system, a farmer must bring their produce to a board known as an Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) for the purpose of sale.

While the objective of APMC was to protect farmers from ‘exploitation,’ it actually became a tool in the hands of the corrupt and the crooked to fleece the farmer. The new laws in Uttar Pradesh now exempt 46 agricultural items from these boards. They allow direct procurement from farmers.

They also let the private sector to operate mandis of their own. Additionally, existing warehouses and cold storages can now operate as market places in themselves. And farmers will no longer be at the mercy of the local APMCs (Mandis) because they have a single license to sell at any marketplace in the state.

The author, formerly Senior Assistant Editor with The Times Of India, is an Assistant Professor, Gorakhpur University. The views are personal.