Understand why Prime Minister Modi announced the withdrawal of Farm Bills

The withdrawal of the three agricultural bills, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech to the nation, has sparked much debate. From estimating the motivations for this movement to observing the crystal, and from predicting collateral fallout to even predicting a political turn of events, there have been many analytical responses. But why go so far or make assumptions when the Prime Minister himself has set out the reasons for his decision? “The bills were introduced in the interest of farmers and they are being withdrawn in the national interest,” Modi said in his speech. What does it mean?

The first part of Modi’s claim is that “the invoices were presented for the benefit of the farmers”. Is he right to say so?

Agronomist Ashok Gulati wrote in these pages on May 18, 2020, that “The reforms, announced last week (three agricultural bills) could be the harbinger of a major shift in agro-marketing, a 1991 moment of economic reform for agriculture “.

An editorial published in this newspaper on January 22, 2021, noted that “the dismantling of the monopoly of state-regulated mandis in the marketing of agricultural products, the removal of storage restrictions and the authorization of processors, organized retailers and exporters entering into contract cultivation agreements with farmers are all steps in the right direction.

Thus, at present, especially since the withdrawal of the bills, there is a broad consensus among political analysts that the bills were in the best interests of farmers.

So Modi was right when he said, “The bills were made for the benefit of the farmers. But what about the second part of the claim that “they are withdrawn in the national interest”? What does it mean?

Consider the sequence of events after Modi’s announcement. The country’s prime minister announced in a televised address to the nation that the three bills will be withdrawn as soon as the winter session of parliament begins later this month. The announcement was made on Guru Nanak’s Prakash Parv, perhaps prompted by the desire to send a message to the Punjab, especially since it was the state that was the most agitated.

The protests in Punjab, parts of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh originated after the bills were proposed and passed. The bills have now been withdrawn. The situation has therefore returned to what existed before. And yet, have the agitators withdrawn their protest? On the contrary, they announced programs to continue their agitation, including a peasant march towards Parliament every day once it was in session. The “peasant march” of January 2021 had ended in violence and the defilement of the Fort. Red.

If the protesters’ concern were only the implications of the bill, surely they would have at least canceled their larger-scale plans, if not put an end to the unrest altogether? What other reason could there be, then, for continuing the agitation even after their demands have been met?

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh’s statement gives us a clue. Reacting to Modi’s announcement, he said: “We were concerned that there were groups in the unrest who were trying to distance themselves from Sikh philosophy, history, sentiments and tradition during the restlessness. Then there were other groups that were trying to turn the agitation of the farmers into a Sikh vs. Indian government or Sikh vs. Hindu issue. We, as a community, could face serious implications as a result of such attempts. We are relieved of these concerns at this time. I thank the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for neutralizing the great crisis that we have been able to see heading towards the community.

Akal Takht Jathedar is speaking, not a BJP or government official. His allusion is clear. Using farm bills as a ruse, a whole industry has sprung up to sow discord. The play of these groups is particularly diabolical since they merge religious feelings in what was an economic decision. “Trying to turn the farmers’ unrest into a Sikh government versus Indian government issue,” these groups are using all the resources at their disposal, including international funding. Their agenda is not economic but political. Their goal is not the welfare of the farmers but Modi in particular and the acceptability of the Indian state in general. If it had been limited to Modi’s hatred, it would have been normal. After all, not everyone in a democracy supports the most popular leader of the day. But the agenda of these groups transcends Modi. They target the Indian state and its unity. We saw in the 1980s what can happen when such religious toxicity is introduced into a border state. It has been Modi’s lifelong project to bury any chance of a recurrence of those dark days.

If that meant that in the national interest Modi needed to step back on farm bills, then he did. In the weeks and months to come, we will know how sagacious he has been in the face of the pullout itself, putting his own image and reputation on the line. For a longtime karmyogi like Modi, the nation always comes first.

The writer is CEO of Bluekraft Digital Foundation and was previously Director (Content) of MyGov

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