Farmers agitation: A via media solution

A meeting was held in Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi yesterday, 1st December between the representatives of 35 farmers organisations and Ministers representing the Central Govt. Despite several hours of talks they were inconclusive, and the next talks have been fixed for tomorrow, 3rd December.

The agitating farmers are demanding repeal of the three recent laws relating to farmers, but the Govt seems unwilling to agree, resulting in an impasse.

I submit that a reasonable via media can be that both parties agree that the laws remain on the statute book, but will not be enforced till the parties, after wide negotiations, agree to some compromise formula.

For this purpose the Govt can issue an Ordinance amending the three laws and stating that they will come into effect only when they are notified in the official gazette. Ordinarily a law comes into effect as soon as the Bill which has been passed by both Houses of Parliament receives the assent of the President ( or the Governor, in case of a state Bill ). But some laws specifically state that they will come into effect only when notified in the Official Gazette, or on the happening of some other contingency. These latter are known as conditional legislation. So the suggestion I am making is that the Central Govt should by an Ordinance convert the three farmers laws into conditional legislation. This will be face saving for the Govt, as well as for the farmers, who can both claim partial success. The Govt can claim that it has not repealed the laws, while the farmers can claim that the laws are not being enforced. The alternative is violence, which seems inevitable if the present confrontation continues.

The Govt must realise that if it does not partially relent and agree to this suggestion it will lose a large number of farmers votes in future elections ( farmers are 60-65% of India’s population ).

On the other hand, farmers must not insist on a measure ( i.e. repeal of the three laws ), which will be a total loss of face for the govt. In negotiations both sides need to bend a bit, and not be too rigid and intransigent, if there is to be a successful outcome.

The farmers must realise that there is a principle of administration that the govt must not surrender before pressure, because if it does, it will create an impression that it is weak, and then more demands and pressures will come. Presently the farmers are blocking many roads leading to Delhi, and some are calling for total blockade of Delhi. If in this situation the Govt agrees to repeal of the three laws it will be surrender to pressure. No govt can agree to this, and if this imbroglio continues I fear there may be violence, as it happened on Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg in January 1905 when the Czarist troops fired on a mob led by Father Gapon ( who was later revealed to be a police agent ), or in Paris during Vendemiarie in October 1795 when the mob was dispersed by a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ by Napoleon’s cannons.

Hence I am suggesting a via media which will avoid violence, and by which both sides can claim partial success.

Markandey Katju

Written by Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is the former Chairman, Press Council of India. Prior to his appointment as Chairman, Press Council of India, he served as a Permanent judge at the Supreme Court of India.

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