Editorial

Needless escalation: On Lakhimpur Kheri violence

The deaths of eight people, four of whom were mowed down by a vehicle that was part of the convoy of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs and BJP MP Ajay Kumar Mishra, in Lakhimpur Kheri in north-central Uttar Pradesh, marks an escalation of violence in a movement that has tried to remain peaceful. While the agitators and the BJP have traded charges on who is responsible, the incident has also worsened chances of a rapprochement between the farmers protesting against farm laws introduced last year and the Union government. There has been little headway since January this year, when the Government agreed to a few demands and also promised to keep the farm laws in abeyance, and after the Supreme Court stayed their implementation. But the distrust between the unions representing the agitators and the Government has remained high, with the farmers refusing to budge from their maximalist position seeking a repeal of the three laws passed last year — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

The farmers are also willing to continue the protest indefinitely, with its intensity increasing after the harvest season even as their methods have come to the unfavourable notice of Supreme Court judges. A Court-appointed committee to facilitate dialogue with the farmers submitted its report on the laws in March but it is yet to be made public. The experience of the economic reforms since 1991 has shown that rushing them through without political consensus — even if they have merits — by ignoring crucial stakeholders creates severe discontent. Farming in much of India has largely been dependent upon State subsidies, procurement and support pricing — and any sudden change in these inputs may jolt the sector, which has been prone to crises in the last few decades, even if the Government claims that liberalising the farm sector will enhance agricultural incomes. It is true that the protesting farmer unions are concentrated in Punjab, Haryana and western U.P., where the involvement of the State in agricultural procurement, awareness of minimum support prices and the presence of mandis is more robust. But it is also true that institutional redress mechanisms to take into account farmers’ concerns have not been put in place. After all, the laws were passed without sufficient deliberation through parliamentary committees and public hearings even as the Bills were rushed, by voice votes, in the Upper House of Parliament. This, no doubt, is the reason for the lingering trust deficit. The U.P. government must impartially investigate the incident in Lakhimpur Kheri but it is also imperative for the BJP-led Union government to restore mechanisms of procedural democracy to bridge the trust deficit. Restarting talks with the unions will be a good beginning.


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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 6:12:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/needless-escalation-on-lakhimpur-kheri-violence/article36830506.ece

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