Farmer protests: Deja vu? | Mint

Farmer protests: Deja vu?

Some farm groups plan to march to Delhi to protest on 13 February.
Some farm groups plan to march to Delhi to protest on 13 February.

Summary

  • Over the weekend, Haryana shut internet services and put up roadblocks on its border with Punjab to block off farm groups from reaching Delhi. The sector needs reforms but talks must lead.

Some farm groups plan to march to Delhi to protest on 13 February. The last time farmers agitated, three years ago, the Centre stood firm against an attempted siege of the capital, but later relented and scrapped the three farm bills they were opposing. The exact discontent this time is unclear, and so are the extent and depth of it, but efforts have been mounted to squeeze the flow of protestors to Delhi. 

Over the weekend, Haryana shut internet services and put up roadblocks on its border with Punjab. If they still gather, another face-off may ensue. There’s no question that India’s farm sector has a problem of incentives misaligned with market forces and is in need of structural reforms. The government’s earlier attempt came apart amid widespread suspicion over the intent of some changes. 

With elections a few months away, any fresh effort would likely have to wait until the next government takes charge. But since several knotty issues need to be resolved, it’s also clear that talks must be held with all stakeholders. If reforms are sure to work in favour of the sector’s long-term benefit, then the buy-in of farmers shouldn’t be hard to obtain. Discussions should lead the way ahead.

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