The central government’s total reluctance or conditional willingness to discuss the controversial farm laws with the farmers raises more questions than it provides answers as to the stand-off between the two. As the media reports suggests, the government’s attitude involving reluctance to deliberation and its strong will to adopt repressive measures and tactics to deal with the protesting farmers do not suggest that the former will go on the back foot and examine the limits of such laws, particularly from the point of view of the farmers’ collective interests.
The government has been relentlessly asserting that the three laws are absolutely beneficial to the farmers while the farmers refute this claim made by the government. The question that we need to address is, whose claim carries conclusive weightage: the government or the farmers? The government spokesperson and the pro-big business economists have been accusing the opposition for misleading the farmers on the good intent of the laws.
These supporters of the laws, thus, suggest that the farmers lack both independent moral capacity to decide for themselves what is good and what is bad for them, and such accusations also suggest that farmers lack historical knowledge about the private business that is interested in drawing the maximum profit from the market transaction. Historically, a market-oriented economy does follow skewed patterns predominantly working out well for the private interests, even petering out the stamina of socialist alternatives.
As the protesting farmers have been arguing, the government’s understanding of the farmers’ knowledge is not only flawed, but it is also insulting inasmuch as it seeks to undermine the farmers’ sense of meaningful survival that becomes independently active against the intrusion of private players in the agricultural market.
Viewed from the point of view of farmers’ autonomous position against the farm laws, one could possibly argue that the government’s justification of the laws stands rather on a naïve premise that the farmers will benefit from the entry of the private players who, by the very logic of handsome price that would result from the healthy competition among themselves pay the farmers a handsome price for the latter’s agricultural product. The government, therefore, is suggesting a win–win position. The government thus assumes that farmers would always have favourable conditions of production and agro-climatic conditions.
In the context of the naivety of such governmental presuppositions, farmers foresee in such laws the real possibility of adverse consequences that are likely to jeopardise their agricultural interests. They would raise the following fundamental questions: Has it ever happened in history that the unregulated market driven by the profit motive turned the economic system in favour of the producing farmers or the toiling masses?
To suggest that the entry of big business, for example, in agricultural markets would evenly distribute the advantages between the private players and the farmers? Will the farm laws achieve parity in obtaining profit from the market mechanism? Is it a win–win situation? Going by the monopoly logic of the market, the farmers are perhaps convinced that it is big businesse that is likely to control the market in the latter’s dominant interests.
The major thrust of protests suggests that the government has taken several steps forward not in the farmers’ favour but in favour of big business. The determination with which the farmers have been protesting does suggest that their protest is not based on mere perception of the threat of big business that would undermine farmers’ interests but the truth of their fear and anxiety that would flow out from the logic of the market driven by private interests. The element of truth resides not in the perception of the government or the farmers, but in the consequences that the farm laws would have on the interests of the farmers.
What one needs to realise from the farmers’ protests is that the government needs to take a few steps backward or needs to go on the back foot. Going on the back foot is like having second thoughts, which is aimed at revisiting the decision that is previously taken. In the context of the farm laws, the protesting farmers are expecting the government to resort to second thoughts, which would make the government confirm that there was a mistake in the very “conception” and conclusion of the farm laws. As of today, the government does not seem inclined to accept the possibility of having second thoughts.
The government as a part of its style of ruling tends to treat its own decision as infallible; the words that are unalterable and have to be followed through as part of an obligation. As we have already seen above, the farmers’ perhaps more informed position seeks to challenge this infallibility of knowledge that the government seemed to have posed in the three farm laws.