Farm protests need a resolution, now | HT Editorial
Even as political and media attention has shifted away from the farm protests to the assembly elections, it is important to note that the protests have not ended. Indeed, organisations, activists and farmers who are opposed to the three new farm laws have continued their agitation both at Delhi’s borders and in Punjab, Haryana and parts of western Uttar Pradesh. This has remained largely peaceful, but at times, taken coercive forms, as seen during an attack on a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator. The protests have continued while India is going through the second wave of Covid-19, with Punjab being one of the most affected states.
The blunt truth is that while the government made a mistake in not going through a deeper consultative process while bringing the laws and political managers on the ruling side alienated protesters by questioning their nationalism, the farm leaders have done great disservice to the cause by not displaying responsible leadership. The government has offered to suspend the laws for 18 months; this offer is on the table; farm groups can negotiate and perhaps try to extend this timeline even more. But instead of doing that, they have chosen to stick to their maximalist demand of repealing the laws. This will not just prolong the standoff, but also expose the protesters to continued risk in the face of the pandemic. Farm unions would do well to negotiate and withdraw the protests before the pandemic extracts a higher toll from the brave men and women who have fought valiantly for their cause. The government would do well in making a renewed offer of talks and, yet again, allaying the apprehensions of farm leaders.