Why to single out farmers for frequent protests? Other organised unions of workers and professionals also adopt road and rail roko and other forms of dharna. Before finding effective solution to the problem, let us discuss the cause of the said problem. It is all due to false promises made by political outfits during election campaigns, undemocratic methods used for passing the laws as was evident in the case of three farm laws and not keeping the promise made as in the case of MSP for farm products. The second major cause for agitation by farmers is that all political parties, regional or national level, were formed after mass agitation in one or other form. So they can’t deny this right to the general public. Moreover, occupying opposition benches in state assemblies or parliament they do adopt the same method instead of discussing the issue on the floor of the House. Our political class must remember the old saying of John C Maxwell “A leader is who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”.
Spread awareness among farmers
Since past many years, farmers of our state have created havoc through their protests in the form of blocking roads and railway tracks. This has not only affected general public at large but also the economy of the state. Our Constitution has enshrined strict punishment for road and railway blockades by anyone. When laws are equal for everyone, then why our successive state governments have failed to enforce disciplinary action against farmers? This is all due to vote bank politics because every political party is aware of the fact that in Punjab maximum population is of farmers living in villages and their votes help them in winning elections. So no political party of our state is willing to go against farmers and also even if they take minor action against them, then all opposition political parties of our state join hands to revolt and protest. So, in this scenario, the best solution is to first ensure action against guilty farmers responsible for road and railway blockades by issuing them first a warning to clear blockades or ready to face harsh action. If they disperse off peacefully, it is good but if they remain adamant, then tear gas shells, mild lathi charge, throwing water on them should be used to clear blockades. Last, but not the least, if the officials don’t want to take any disciplinary action against agitating farmers, then they should simply pacify them to withdraw their agitations by accepting eighty per cent of their demands with immediate effect and convincing them by assuring them of acceptance of remaining 20 per cent demands in nearby future.
Earmark site for protests
Protests, strikes, sit-ins, wearing black badges, etc. are all different ways to lodge disagreement with the government or employer. Sometimes, groups of people raising slogans march together through streets or gather at a location and make speeches about their demands. There is nothing illegal or undemocratic in holding protests. We are all witness to historic year-long farmers’ protest against the ‘black laws’ passed by the Central government. Much to the joy of the protesting unions, the worthy prime minister understood, though a bit late, the genuineness of the demands of the farmers and agreed to repeal the laws. The farmers say that some of their demands regarding MSP, etc. are still unmet. Hence, their threat to hold a similar protest, this time at the Mohali-Chandigarh border. The same has since been withdrawn following intervention of the Governor. However, protests usually cause inconvenience to the public which are not a party to their demands. Blocking a major highway or an important square in the middle of the city for hours may fetch headlines and pictures in the media, but the general sympathy of the common man is lost. Ideally, there should be prescribed place for expressing disagreements and demands. Amritsar had Tikoni Park (now lost to development) near Bhandari Bridge. It provided convenience to the protesters and visibility to the traffic on three sides. Similar spots can be decided for every city but the general public, students, office staff, labourers should not be inconvenienced. Long ago, in Pakistan, members of a high profile union quietly stood single file along the central divider of their expressway holding flags showing their demands. Even the army could not help appreciating their novel way of protest.
Prof Mohan Singh
Form panel to resolve farmers’ issues
Frequent protests by farmers in Punjab have led to road and railway blockades in various parts of the state, causing disruptions not only for the general public but also for the state’s economy. Farmers have raised several issues, some of which pertain to the Central government, such as the legal guarantee of minimum support price for their crops, protection of the mandi system, and withdrawal of cases registered against protesters during the year-long agitation, withdrawal of FIRs registered for burning stubble, compensation for crop loss during floods and pension for farmers, etc. Hence, there is a need for better coordination between the Central and state governments to formulate a joint strategy to resolve these issues. Meanwhile, the Punjab government must prioritise improving the agricultural economy and welfare of farmers in the state by investing in and encouraging crop diversification, improving irrigation facilities, providing better access to credit and insurance, and promoting agro-processing and value addition. The state government should have increased the state-assured price for sugarcane, which was lower than that in other states, in a timely manner. The farmers are also demanding payment of arrears by the sugar mills, especially by Phagwara Sugar Mill, which is delayed due to legal tangles. Furthermore, the Punjab government should have implemented the legislation passed in October 2020 to reject the central farm laws and protect the rights of farmers in the state but the same is pending for the assent of the Governor and the President.
Dr Kulwant Singh Phull
Deal protesters with iron hand
Protests/ agitations can be a common factor in the coming days by political parties as the municipal corporation and Lok Sabha elections are drawing near. Farmers are misusing the right of expression, speech and freedom by blocking national highways, trains to protest for their demands is really unfortunate. The recent protest by farmers gave a negative impact on the masses by blocking national highways creating inconvenience to the general public. Long lines of vehicles stranded on roads can be witnessed during blocking of national highway. Blocking national highways leads to sheer wastage of time and petrol/diesel due to long traffic jams and traffic hazards. Similarly, it also impacts the country’s economy. The Union and the state government should deal protesters with an iron hand. Blocking the NHs/ rail traffic is not the remedy to get their demand implemented. The protesters should sit on the roadside to lodge their protests rather than blocking the NHs. Politicians should either refrain from making false promises with the masses or announce only those proposals which can be implemented in public interest and do not have negative impact on the state exchequer / economy.
Rajat Kumar Mohindru
Discuss concerns of farmers
For over three years, the ongoing protest by cultivators still appears to be endless and troublesome for both the economy and the calmness of the state. After staging a four-day protest by blocking the NH for increasing sugarcane price, ended their dharna on Friday. The Chief Minister gave assurances of “good news” soon, leading the farmers to call off their protest. The farmers still have many grievances and have warned the Centre of a potential larger protest if their demands are not taken seriously. Harinder Singh Lakhowal, a farmer leader from Punjab, stated that the recent three-day protest was just a trailer for what could be a bigger agitation. Lakhowal explained that there are some demands that pertain to the state government, which they have separately taken up, and a meeting with the chief minister will be held on December 19. The best shot for the government is to wisely and thoughtfully discuss the concerns of the cultivators and devise a solution that is in favour of the farmers and the common man. Any candidness can result in a disagreement on either side because the demands of the farmers can directly affect the buyer who has to pay more price to buy the crop than before. .
Accept genuine demands
With the hard efforts of progressive farmers, our country is now self-reliant on food. Having contributed substantially to the food bowl of the nation, obviously they deserve a fair deal. The states of Punjab and Haryana are currently experiencing farmers’ resentment as the agri-profession is getting non-remunerative due to the rising costs of farm-inputs, machinery and varied marketing issues. Once known for patience and perseverance, farmers are resorting to agitational approach for bare subsistence. They are struggling for the acceptance of their long-pending demands of viable pricing and assured marketing of their produce. Since yearlong stir of 2020-21 at Delhi borders ended in clueless outcome of guaranteed MSP on crops based at C2+50% formula, the farmers are holding dharnas and protests, occasionally blocking roads and railway tracks to press for their demands. Here, a question arises as to why the government not having a robust mechanism for timely redressal of their grievances to avoid such stalemate? Apparently, lack of appropriate action leads not only to inconvenience to the passengers but also causes a major drawback to our surging economy. On November 24, I boarded Swarana Shatabdi from New Delhi for some work at Jalandhar, which did not proceed Ludhiana junction as the railway tracks ahead were occupied by the farmers near Phagwara. There were utterly chaotic scenes at the station as the passengers were stuck for hours together, with no clue to the lifting of dharna by the agitators. Literally, all commuters were seen cursing frequent rail-roko/road-jams by the protesters for pressing their demands. Like many others, I had to hire a taxi at very exorbitant rates which made me reach the destination through link roads avoiding protest sites. No doubt in a democratic set-up, everyone has the right to express its concerns, but unwanted harassment to the public is undesirable. It has become a common practice to proceed on strikes or protests by trade unions and organisations for the acceptance of their demands. The Centre and state governments should ensure that rail or road blockades do not take place, while genuine demands of the sons-of-soil are taken up in right earnest. Our economy being agri- intensive, various issues relating to peasantry need be resolved proactively, so that farmers concentrate primarily on quality and quantity of food production for the prosperity of the nation, as a whole.
Nirmaljit Singh Chatrath
Hold govt-farmer meets regularly
To protest is a constitutional right of a person or an organisation. Therefore, any protest cannot be designated as unconstitutional lest it should violate law and order. Therefore, farmers’ protest can in no way be termed as undemocratic. Farmers feed the nation. Natural vagaries often complicate their issues. Inflation also adds to their woes, making input cost outstripping profit. The best way to find a solution to all the issues of farmers is opening up a quarterly channel of communication between the two parties. All the concerns of the farmers should be addressed to with full sincerity in quarterly meetings. Farmers should also co-operate with the government. Secondly, they should not block roads and stop trains as such steps trouble the common man. Such modes of protest endanger the life of a patient or an accident victim. Besides, they spoil careers of job seekers. Road blockades often make job aspirants reach late for interviews. A few fail to make it to the interview venue. Therefore, to avoid harm to the state and citizens, government and farmers must sit together once in four months to resolve their issues.
Prof Rajan Kapoor
QUESTION for next week
Dropout rate in colleges has increased because of the desperation among students to go abroad. What steps should the government take to ensure that youth from the state prefer to study here.
Suggestions in not more than 200 words can be sent to [email protected] by Thursday (Dec 7)
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