Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a step towards ending the ordeal of farmers, not just that they have endured in the last few months of protest, but also to work towards new farm ecosystems in India. One that will ensure the farmer's income will double, as promised by the government.
The thrust of Modi’s request to see reforms as the only way forward is something no opposition leader would disagree. Ironically, many political parties in their election manifestoes have spoken about effecting farm reforms, yet today they are not supporting the three farm laws aimed at reforms.
Agriculture reforms should have ideally begun post-Green Revolution, which found more success in the northern India. Policymakers missed the bus again in the 1990s when the economy was opened to reforms. Many sectors in India improved, and some scaled dizzying new highs.
Now, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government which has the mandate to fulfil its reform promises made in its election manifesto has to overcome a set of protesting farmers. Every political party during the past two decades has not shown the 'political will’ to execute farm reforms, well aware of the birth pangs and the risks of disturbing their respective vote banks.
In the past, no political party or government has shown the courage and taken the risk to carry out these reforms. Previous governments have chosen the easy route of handing out doles and appeasing respective voters. This arrangement meant that agricultural infrastructure remained patchy. The proposed reforms will end that process, allowing the farm sector to ask for better infrastructure.
Farmers should take the PM's call to discuss all their concerns. By offering to discuss, Modi has opened up the door for those willing to find a solution to the current stalemate. Farmer leaders should listen to the PM and what he has assured to do. It is not a move to subdue the voice that has been heard loud and clear across India and the world.
If reforms, which began in the 1990s, were rolled back, the economy would have been in a shambles. Could India afford to go back on the reforms process then? Can it go back now?
All those willing to find a solution need to introspect on these two critical questions. Farmers have genuine concerns, and it is the responsibility of the elected government to ally their fears.
Talks and verbal assurances are indeed inadequate to offer means to an amicable solution. However, an assurance has been made by the Prime Minister from a public forum offering to discuss.
The Opposition in a democracy has a responsibility. There could be an option for political parties supporting the protesting farmers to participate in the dialogue. Either way, it is now the Opposition’s responsibility to ensure that discussions are fruitful. It is not the time to mislead the farmers or make political capital out of the situation.
The PM, by urging the farmers to discuss with him and the government, is accepting that any misunderstanding the farmers might have about the farm laws can be explained, provided, they are willing to discuss it.
Modi went into the intricate details of the farm laws when he requested the farmers to participate in discussion with the government. After presenting his point of view, he urged the farmers to introspect. He also offered to discuss every aspect of it — an indication that he is open to listening to the woes of farmers and clearing their doubts.
Farmers should thoughtfully examine this offer. A constructive dialogue between farmers, government and Opposition will certainly ensure a better outcome.
India has one of the lowest farm growth when compared to its peers. The farm reforms provide an opportunity to script new success stories, to improve the lives of farmers and to increase the contribution from agriculture towards India’s GDP.