Stakeholders Must Talk-out Agrarian Problems Else Devastation is Inevitable For All

by Rajinder Singh Taggar

The agrarian dynamics in Punjab stand charged up politically above the normal after the three farmers’ organizations revived their agitation to get the promised yet pending demands accepted by the Union Government. As a result, on February 13, 2024, the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march with many tractor-trolleys was stopped by the Haryana police at the Shambhu border, forcibly creating a situation where lumpen elements became active.

Acting swiftly, with the active participation of the Punjab Government, the Union Government formed a high-powered committee comprising three ministers to negotiate a way out. On February 19, Monday midnight, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Union Minister Piyush Goyal told media persons that a mutually acceptable solution of giving minimum support price (MSP) on food grains and cereals was in sight.

In light of the emerging favorable scenario, the stakeholders are moving steadily towards solving a problem created initially by three farm laws over two years ago. Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervened to repeal them. As fate would have it, the gains of Modi’s decision were somehow lost as the ‘Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and the Government Committee formed to carry forward the promises of the Prime Minister failed to make any concrete recommendations on various demands of the farmers.

Ex-MP Bhupinder Maan led Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) went on record saying, “If the Government is held responsible for failure of a solution, then the SKM is no less at fault as it failed to nominate two representatives to the committee meant to concretize the agreement between the farmers and the Union Government”.

As per the understanding of neutral observers, an element of “distrust and suspicion” came into play among the stakeholders due to political interests, with the SKM leadership falling apart into two groups, the political and non-political, each one blaming the other. The gains of the year-long Delhi dharna by farmers disappeared in the cacophony of a divided SKM, the BJP, and the Opposition. As the general elections neared this year, the non-political group of the SKM launched ‘Dilli Chalo’, evoking a massive response from the peasantry. The Manohar Lal Khattar Government in Haryana, many feel, acted immaturely by using force to stop the march at the Shambhu border.

As the unrest spread, Punjab witnessed one-day ‘rail roko’ and ‘free-toll-plaza’ protests, causing substantial financial losses to the state and harassment to the commoners. As things stand now, the Union Government’s readiness to make amends with SKM’s (non-political) willingness to talk out the problem, a ray of hope, is expected soon.

The solution becomes more critical because the radicals have jumped to fish in the troubled waters. Going by their wont, violence is inevitable in the coming days if all stakeholders leave the problem unaddressed. Besides the rest of India, the peace-loving majority of Punjab’s population would be the biggest losers in such an event of the failure of the talks.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.

Rajinder Singh Taggar

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