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Farmers participate in a tractor rally to protest against the newly passed farm bills, on a highway on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files (REUTERS)
Farmers participate in a tractor rally to protest against the newly passed farm bills, on a highway on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files (REUTERS)

A different approach

As the court looks for someone to take Bhupinder Singh Mann’s place, it should narrow the search field to agricultural experts held in high esteem by farmers. It is also advisable to expand the committee in a manner that rebalances its composition

On Thursday, Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, recused himself from the Supreme Court-appointed committee on farm laws, as declared by a tweet put out by the union. This was “so as not to compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country", said his statement. A day earlier, representatives of the ongoing protest had cited an apparent pro-policy bias among the panel’s members to reject talks with it.

The stalemate over our farm reforms is proving harder to ease than even cynics had expected. As the court looks for someone to take Mann’s place, it should narrow the search field to agricultural experts held in high esteem by farmers. It is also advisable to expand the committee in a manner that rebalances its composition. Done well, this would raise its credibility among protesters. But there is a larger lesson for reformers in all this. Sectors held captive by the state for too long can’t be freed overnight without resistance. For those used to captivity, it may feel like shock therapy. As Russia’s post-Soviet example showed, this can backfire. Maybe we need a gradual approach that’s more educative than peremptory

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