India’s Farm Laws Stayed — Is it too Soon To Call it a Victory?
Maybe a little. The Supreme Court of India is currently hearing both sides — the government and the farmers on the three farm bills, which were hastily passed mid-last-year. There have been widespread protests in the northern agrarian states of India, namely Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan since then. The farmers think the laws would take away the government protection of minimum support pricing and leave them at the mercy of the corporates.
The Supreme court today in a landmark judgement has put a stay on all the farm bills — in layman’s words, the chief justice of India is saying — “Farmers don’t want it, so lawmakers, you can take it back and shove it in your pockets or wherever.” Or maybe I am hoping he says it in these words.
Nevertheless, the fact that the matter has reached the Supreme court provides some respite to the farmers over the useless conversations they have been having with the Government so far. There have been eight meaningless attempts in the last two months to tell the policymakers that these laws need to be repealed, nothing less.
The protests by our farmer brothers and sisters have been nothing less of an inspiration. Man, they fought the dirtiest battle of recent times — water cannons, tear-gas, dug-up highways, a barrage of godi media, freezing cold temperatures, Kangana Ranaut, and also the other real virus — COVID-19. For those of us who have forgotten, the pandemic is still ongoing, and the virus is still out there — it is still looking for a super-spreader event like this. Remember how the government had suppressed the anti-CAA protests (same time last year) in the name of the pandemic. Even now, it may only take a few sick people for the government to shut this protest, calling the threat of the virus.
But man, amidst all this — they remain fearless. Hats off to them to put up a brave fight. They aren’t fighting for their livelihoods; they are fighting for all our survival. Remember that the next time you order groceries — some farmer somewhere had sown the seeds, plowed and harvested before it goes to the middlemen, processing industries and consumers — today they are fighting to get a fair price for their own produce. Imagine if you did all the hard work at the office and then had to protest to get a fair wage — how would that feel? I am sure many of us would have looked for alternative career options.
But not them.
They are undeterred. They came prepared. They knew exactly what they wanted.
They understood it will not be an easy protest. And by any measure of scale, it isn’t just a protest; it is a movement — one that has shaken the roots of the present government. They have shown how to organize a mass movement to fight for your rights. It has certainly inspired me, and I am sure a million or perhaps a billion others like me — it has what grit and determination could achieve. I am proud of each one of them who protested on the ground and each one of them who supported them in spirit.
We have reclaimed democracy a little.
On the update so far, the SC is suggesting that a committee be set up to hear the arguments from both sides going over each clause and seeing which ones to be removed or amended as against repealing the entire law. It makes sense in theory. But we need to understand a few more aspects to be fully sure of how this may be done — who would be part of the committee, what happens in case both parties don’t reach an agreement even then, who will represent the farmers, etc.
To me, it sounds like the supreme court is in a catch-22 situation wherein it is trying its best to be fair to the farmers while not succumbing to the government pressure.
It is tough. But hopefully, we have a few spines that are still erect in the highest court of justice.