By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-12-28 06:34:57
There is something fishy in the way the farm unions are responding to government overtures for further negotiations. For one, the insistence on keeping the repeal of the laws on the agenda is incomprehensible when the unions are willing to discuss the contentious issues. One can either repeal the laws or amend them suitably to do away with such contentious clauses. But any meeting that has both on the agenda is doomed to failure as the unions will again demand repeal.
Although the unions do not trust the government (and this is mainly due to two things: first the manner in which first the ordinances and then the bills were rushed in and made law and second the manner in which the agitation was given a bad name initially), one feels that it will be in the best interests of the nation if the unions agree to a clause by clause discussion as offered by the government. They have already set the agenda for the talks on the 29th of December. One hopes they stick to it, except the insistence on repealing the laws.
There is also no harm in having this discussion in a committee comprising of representatives of the government, the unions, outside (and unbiased) experts and other stakeholders, as the Supreme Court wants. That would ensure that apart from the inflexible views of the two main parties, some other illuminating views are also put on the table. A solution will be easier to find if more views are taken into consideration.
The government, on the other hand, must move forward from verbal assurances on MSP and devise a legal guarantee through which farm products are procured at MSP to the satisfaction of the farmers. But the farmers must also understand that MSP for all farm products is not feasible and no government can guarantee that. They must also study the alternative models as being followed in many agricultural products (tea, for example) and come up with independent ideas to add value to the reforms.
When both parties come down from their high horses and admit that a middle ground can be found, only then will a solution emerge. To be fair to the government, it has shown a great deal of flexibility. The unions have not. It is now time for them to apply their minds and come up with ideas that usher in reforms in the sector while not compromising their interests. Their inputs will be valuable and the government is bound to consider them.