Government must take the consultative approach before enacting reforms in future

With Parliament passing a Bill today to revoke the three contentious farm laws, protesting farmers have reason to feel victorious. However, farmers are still not completely vacating protest sites as they press on with other demands such as a law on MSP. Notwithstanding the government’s backtracking, the three farm laws did represent much needed reforms for the agri sector. It’s clear that Indian agriculture in its present form is unsustainable with adverse implications for the environment and economy. The farm laws tried to address some of these vexed issues by encouraging diversification and opening up produce trade. 

Though well-intentioned, the laws failed to convince farmers with stakes in the current system. Admittedly, the culprit was government’s failure to hold wide-ranging consultations with the farmers before passing the laws. The latter were then rammed through Parliament last year, portraying the government as arrogant. In fact, even as government withdrew the laws in Parliament today, it again did not accept any discussing on the subject. 

Read also: Parliament passes bill to repeal three farm laws

But there’s no denying that farm reforms are desperately needed. Government can and should reintroduce them in future in another form. However, before doing so, it must hold wide-ranging discussions with farmers, civil society and the political opposition, and take them into confidence. Reforms in India can neither be done through stealth nor be rammed through. It is only by evolving consensus that results can be produced. Government will do well to heed this.



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