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  Opinion   Edit  23 Feb 2024  AA Edit | Govt must act swiftly to resolve farmers’ issues

AA Edit | Govt must act swiftly to resolve farmers’ issues

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 23, 2024, 1:18 am IST
Updated : Feb 23, 2024, 1:18 am IST

Government Faces Backlash as Farmer Clashes Escalate

Daljeet Singh (C), a farmer from India's Gurdaspur, shows a blank rubber shot while speaking with AFP during an ongoing protest to demand minimum crop prices, near the Punjab-Haryana state border at Shambhu in Patiala district on February 22, 2024. Thousands of Indian farmers last week launched what they have dubbed
 Daljeet Singh (C), a farmer from India's Gurdaspur, shows a blank rubber shot while speaking with AFP during an ongoing protest to demand minimum crop prices, near the Punjab-Haryana state border at Shambhu in Patiala district on February 22, 2024. Thousands of Indian farmers last week launched what they have dubbed "Delhi Chalo", or "March to Delhi", to demand a law to fix a minimum price for their crops, in addition to other concessions including the waiving of loans. (Photo by Narinder NANU / AFP)

The unfortunate death of a young farmer in clashes with police on Wednesday is another instance indicating how the ad hoc administrative measures taken by the Union government to silence him and his comrades who seek redress of their grievances are unlikely to succeed. There must be an honest attempt to understand the issues flagged by this cohort of people.

Reports suggest that 21-year old Shubhkaran Singh died in the explosion of a tear gas shell. The Haryana police said 12 of its personnel have sustained injuries of various degrees when protesting farmers pelted stones. The Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana witnessed tense situations where farmers in their thousands tried to march to the national capital seeking favourable government decisions. Their agenda includes a minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, especially foodgrains. The government’s offer to introduce MSP for cash crops has not satisfied them, and hence the decision to continue with the agitation.

It is incumbent on the government to ensure the farmers, who have sustained their agitation against the three farm laws of the Union government for one-and-a-half years peacefully, do not resort to violence. The people’s representatives at the Centre and in states should not think that the constabulary at their command can be let loose on that very group they respectfully refer to as “annadatas”.

That the farmers’ organisations have called for an immediate halt to their “Delhi Chalo” programme in the wake of this violence is telling. It means they want to keep the peace. All hell would have broken loose if a political party suffered such a loss which, in the past, has resulted in mayhem and bloodshed. But the farmers have chosen to tread a different path, indicating that they do not want to politicise the issue and that all they want is a solution. The government must respect their position and respond in a responsible way.

It appears that the three-member team of Union ministers comprising Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai has not been able to impress on the farmers the government’s points of view after four rounds of talks. And the government’s game plan on handling a farmer agitation barely weeks before an all-important Lok Sabha election has been less than transparent. The offer of MSP for cash crops displays a lack of understanding of the shorter and longer impact it can have on a nation that wants to feed the whole world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the government is “committed to fulfil every resolution related to farmers’ welfare”. It is a fact that the welfare of the farming community is a recurring theme in the Prime Minister’s speeches. It is time he led the government’s efforts to address the concerns of the community.

Violence and loss of life are unacceptable after-effects of an agitation taken up by a peaceful community. The government must ensure peace returns to the agitation sites and a sense of purpose permeates its next round of talks with the farmers.

Tags: delhi farmers protest, aa edit