Online Classes :- Current Affairs Part-3

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Maharashtra kisan rally: A model protest

Maharashtra’s farmers win hearts and minds; their issues must be addressed everywhere

The gruelling six-day march of nearly 200 km from Nashik to Mumbai by thousands of farmers, with the aim to gherao the Maharashtra Assembly and sensitise the government to their problems, was remarkable. The manner in which they conducted themselves — without disrupting the lives of other citizens and refraining from aggressive sloganeering — is not how India’s myriad protesters typically behave. And, while urban India usually has little patience for agrarian problems, many Mumbaikars not only backed the stir but also pitched in to help with food, water, medical aid, and even footwear. While Opposition parties as well as BJP ally Shiv Sena backed the farmers and tribals in an attempt to isolate Devendra Fadnavis’s administration, he managed to emerge unflustered and deal with the issue effectively. The farmers were persuaded to complete the final leg of the march early on Monday to avoid inconveniencing commuters, and halt peacefully 2 km from the Assembly so that government emissaries could negotiate with their representatives. By evening, ‘deeply humbled’ by the farmers’ reasonable approach, Mr. Fadnavis said he respected them and had no problem in accepting most of their demands, leading the farmers to end the stir and board special trains to go back home. While this should perhaps serve as a model for protesters and administrators across India, there is also a lesson to be learnt about how to deal with unrest of this nature, which other States such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have had to contend with.

A six-month deadline has been set for changes that will take some doing, with a written assurance that some of the demands will be pushed through immediately. A large number of the marchers were tribals with no land titles; therefore, the promise that the 2006 Forest Rights Act will be implemented in letter and spirit is welcome. The demand that caveats to the State’s loan waiver scheme be dropped so that genuine small farmers are not excluded is also being considered. The efficacy of loan waivers in alleviating farm distress is limited at best. A few droughts or disruptions later, another waiver would be called for if no institutional reforms are undertaken to free constricted agricultural markets. However, having announced a waiver scheme, the State should ensure that small farmers don’t get left out. Maharashtra’s farm sector shrunk by over 8% in 2017-18, but the distress goes beyond its borders and demands for raising the minimum support price in line with the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report are spreading, with Haryana farmers picking up the baton on Tuesday. The BJP-led government at the Centre, which has been promising doubling of farm incomes and higher prices, and is to seek re-election a year from now, would do well to take note too. The Gujarat election, which was marked by sharply different voting patterns in urban and rural areas, was a rude reminder of how agrarian distress can impact the election result.

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