Why farmers are upset about reforms

Three months ago when Parliament was not in session, the Government of India issued three ordinances. Normally ordinances are issued only as an emergency law, and they have to be converted into proper legislation as soon as Parliament reconvenes. These three ordinances were about agriculture and farming. All three were in the spirit of ‘reforms’, i.e. removing shackles from the farmer. Now one of the ordinances has been passed in the Lok Sabha. The other two are in the pipeline. You would imagine that farmers would welcome any reform that gives them more freedom.

But this ‘granting of freedom’ has met with a big backlash. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have come to the streets. The agitation may spread to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh too. It has spilled on to highways. Opposition parties too are criticising the ordinance, but that is expected. The ruling party in Punjab is opposing the new law, but asking farmers to not blockade traffic. The most awkward thing for the ruling party in Delhi was that the Union food processing industries minister resigned from the cabinet. She resigned in protest because she claimed that the new law is anti-farmer. But in the four-page resignation letter written to the prime minister she did not spell out how, exactly, the new reformist law was anti-farmer. She belongs to Alkali Dal, a coalition partner to BJP.

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