We refer to ourselves as the Republic of India, so it’s critical that we fully comprehend what that term entails. A country’s governance takes place within the parameters set out in its constitution. In a democratic election, the winning party gains the right to rule the country within that system. Here, we have to understand that the “system”, or as we call it, the legislative process, is much more important than which party wins the election.
But the present government, it seems, has forgotten this concept. A major example of this is the recent enacting of the much-debated Farm Bills. It almost completely did away with the essence of our legislative process, i.e. democratic decision making.
Despite intense resistance by the whole of the opposition combined and multiple nationwide protests by farmers and farmer organisations, the government passed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020. It was moved through both the houses of the parliament and in a matter of fewer than 2 weeks from the date of introduction, the bill was given assent by the President.
This kind of quick decision making comes at a heavy cost, a cost of gradual erosion of the fundamental democratic values. This quick process has the dangers of bypassing, both intentionally and unintentionally, the rights of the stakeholders, the people whose lives are affected by such laws.
A similar issue happened here in the case of the Farm Bills. The farmers, who are projected as the main beneficiaries of these new laws, believe that these laws will pave a major way for private entities into the still very much underdeveloped agriculture sector, which can be destructive to the small farmers.
In an ideal situation, the government should have already discussed the proposed legislation with the leadership of farmer interest groups and then introduce the bill to the parliament for further course of action. But the form of top-down approach this government employed resulted in mass movements across the country.
Despite the fact that India is a farming-oriented nation, data clearly show that the agricultural sector contributes only about 15% of the country’s GDP, despite employing more than 40% of the total population. This sets a disturbing precedent for India’s development goals as it leaves the majority of farmers distressed.
In India, more than a quarter of farmers live in poverty. Droughts and floods occur often, wreaking havoc on our farmers. Since 1995, more than 2 lakh farmers have committed suicide as a result of a debt crisis and a lack of money and food.
As we can corroborate with the statistics, there is a dire need for reform in the agriculture sector, but the fact still stands that this reform cannot come from the above. It has to have the involvement of the people who understand the heart and soul of Indian agriculture.