gfiles did a detailed cover story in January 2019 titled “Farmer Crisis: A tickling bomb”. gfiles indicated, “The crisis is monumental, and it would need a colossal vision to deal with it. One can begin the process in 2019. Or else it will too late. If the farmers do not benefit, there will be blood on the streets.” Now, the farmer is on the streets—so far peacefully. For days, parts of the nation came to a standstill due to thousands of farmers and workers who participated in rail-roko and highway blockade. The opposition flexed its muscles and bared its ideological fangs. For once, there was a semblance of a vibrant democracy, even as five acts related to agriculture, labour reforms and civil society were bulldozed through Parliament.
But if seen with a sense of perspective and context, the situation signifies the abject failure of politics. Political parties of all hues were in deep slumber until they woke up at the last minute, and that too after the horses had bolted from the stable. They were engaged in reactive politics, which had little consequences on the implementation of the acts. The sole aim of the participants was to score political brownie points in a bid to gain whatever electoral mileage they could.
Look at the opposition. For months, it knew that the three agriculture acts, which desired to introduce farm corporatisation, were in play, and were likely to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament. Yet, they did not act, or even mewed or barked. Only when they realised that the acts could stir the farmers, and yield electoral benefits, especially in the Bihar assembly elections, did they wake up. The same was true for labour reforms, most of which were implemented by
several states to combat the unexpected impact of COVID-19 in the Indian and global economies. Buoyed by the fact that it had a huge majority in the Lok Sabha and could push through bills in the Upper House too, the ruling regime sat quiet. Confident and arrogant at the same time, it concluded that there would be no political criticism. With the media on its side, it felt that public outcry, if any, could easily be stymied. The road to reforms was clear, and it could walk down the path in a majestic manner. The allies watched the whole show from the sidelines and waited meekly. The lions of Punjab, and tigers of Maharashtra, just sat in their comfortable caves.
For years, civil society was under siege—not just from this government, but also from the previous ones. It made a hue and cry, on and off, but found itself on the back foot because of the scams buried in the cupboards of a few NGOs. Brick by brick, their empires, built over decades, were dismantled through several changes in the Companies Act and the FCRA Act on foreign contributions. When the final nail was drilled into its coffin, it was unprepared. Reactions came only after the changes in the act, through articles and audio-visual bytes.
What was most interesting was to watch the theatrical performances of the farmers and workers’ unions, which are managed by wings of the RSS, the umbrella organisation of the BJP. Like in the past, when the unions publicly took on previous BJP regimes on issues like GM food and Swadeshi, this show too was merely to retain their popularity and membership. After all, the RSS-affiliated unions are the largest in the country and unless they demonstrate that their
hearts and souls are with the farmers and workers, they are likely to be discredited. So, they took to the streets but, as we said earlier, only after Parliament had done its job.
The farmer is the lifeline of India. They are not characters meant for a puppet show. If the situation goes out of hand, one does not know how and where the anger of farmer will culminate. So, wake up, talk, and move for the prosperity of India.