In this detailed piece I will try to explore the reasons for failure of talks between farmers and the Union government.
Reasons for Failure of talks 2.0
The assumption that farmers are not knowledgeable and have very little know how of farm bills costed BJP led centre government the failure of talks when the invite was extended earlier as well as today. It seems BJP does not want to admit that there is anything wrong in the bill. Making subtle changes in their Invite 1.0 which farm unions had rejected unanimously, they sent another invite that did not make a mention of ‘Educating and Convincing farmers on the bill’, which farm unions accepted.
One of the major reason for accepting the invite was the hope to talk to a senior level minister if not agriculture minister or prime minister himself. The farm unions were split on accepting the invite due to ambiguity of the invite’s agenda. Then why did they accept it if they wanted to reject and walk out of the meeting is the question every body is asking.
The assumption that farmers are illiterate on the benefits of the bill is a very immature assumption that costed centre this failure of talks. The first fifteen minutes of the talk were spent in a rather stupid PPT to educate farmers on which the seven representatives raised questions to which the secretary convening the meeting had no answers. “Everything we asked was noted in a notebook and we were told that it will be seen later on” said Balbir singh. “After some more small talk we asked if any senior minister is coming to the meeting to which we were told that the meeting was conducted to understand the position and explain the bills. This again is very immature approach. “, he said.
The secretary threatened the farm union representatives in the meeting that farmers protesting against BJP people who are conducting massive awareness sessions on bills in Punjab should not be harmed and that the onus lies on Farm unions. This again indicates the immature stand of centre government towards the farmers who are looked upon as goons by the government itself. Answering this, the farm union leader Balbir singh said, “If the ministers can go to Punjab to educate the people about the bills, why are we called here. The centre is playing a dual policy and clearly doesn’t want to backtrack on the bills. They can send their ministers to conduct online sessions in Punjab but they don’t have any minister to talk to us even after sending an invite. This is insulting to us and hence we walked out.”
Organic Movement has thrown out all political parties
The movements like this are very organic and clear. This movement reminds me of the Gurdwara reform movement that was very peaceful and without any political intent. I have praised farm unions for their ability to steer the movement without letting any vested interests hijack it. Here is how the parties stand in Punjab today.
Shiromani Akali Dal
Sukhbir Badal and Akalis made a great show of their march to Chandigarh from three Takhts earlier this month but that did not catch much attention from the farmers. In fact it was not even acknowledged by some farm unions. Some people in political circles even went to extent of calling it ‘staged’. SAD however has realised that it is better to stay away from the farm movement as of now. This however has not stopped Akalis from criticism of INc and mudslinging. As of today, the only thing Akalis can do is to condemn and announce solidarity with protesting farmers. Farm unions are in no mood to provide stage to Akalis and Akalis have also stopped wasting diesel in rallies.
Amrinder singh led congress government in Punjab faces more or less the same situation. Amrinder singh entertained Rahul Gandhi in Punjab and created a drama of the likes of SAD around Haryana border in their tractor rally. However congress realised it that farmers are not buying into their protests. As a matter of fact congress had to buy in protestors for its tractor rally on day one.
However being in power Amarinder singh has much more onus and can also solve problems to some extent. After failure of talks with centre, Amrinder singh finally realised that Punjab Assembly session should be called in to address the issue. It remains to be seen if Amrinder singh fulfils his promise of quashing the Punjab APMC act and declares entire Punjab as one Mandi. If Amrinder singh decides to do it, he is likely to steal the show for 2022 elections without making much noise.
Amrinder singh is also facing heat on lot of other issues including scholarship scams, Stubble burning issues etc which will hopefully be addressed in session on October 19th
What is next for farmers?
Farm unions had given up the ‘Rail Roko’ yesterday after their meeting in Chandigarh but after failure of their meeting today in Delhi they have decided to intensify their protests which means that stopping trains will continue.
Farmers are facing constant pressure from state government to let the carrier trains run citing the lack of coal in the state to run the thermal power plants. Farm unions however have rubbished the claims of state even after few thermal plants have shut their units. The argument presented by farm unions and a very valid one is that Punjab can easily buy cheaper electricity from national grid.
Another important obstacle with rail Roko is the deficiency of essentials in the Union Territory Of Jammu and Kashmir. The prices of essentials have sky rocketed due to stoppage of trains. The rumour mills have also played a huge part in helping the hoarding wholesellers to earn some money. It should however be noted that essentials like vegetables, fruits, chicken, eggs etc are running out of stocks in Jammu and Kahsmir.
Farm unions will be meeting tomorrow in Chandigarh to take a decision on how to scale their movement further. Farm unions have maintained that they will not travel to Delhi for any meeting and any meeting moving forward should have proper agenda, a declared minister who would attend the meeting.
The farmers have urged everyone to steer clear of any tactics to derail the movement. The movement is entirely peaceful but few agencies of congress are playing dirty games by attacking BJP people in Punjab. The recent attack on Ashwini sharma by congress men is one such attempt. The sacrilege of Sri Guru Garanth Sahib Ji is yet another attempt to derail the movement to give it a communal colour. No matter which side you are on, please do not encourage any rumours about farmers. Let’s help farmers in our small way.