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Unthinking Protest

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The ongoing blockade of the railway tracks against the new agri-laws by ‘farmers’ in Punjab has directly caused incalculable loss to the state, apart from the long term consequences to the post-pandemic economy. Despite concern expressed by the Punjab Chief Minister and Union Ministers, the farmers remain totally unconcerned about the impact of their actions. Governments, historically, have been wary of directly confronting farmers as it can adversely affect their poll prospects. Nothing would be worse for optics if, in forcibly clearing the tracks, some farmers are injured or killed. As everybody knows, grudges are held for generations in the villages. As such, the unwillingness of the Railways to take any chances is understandable.

The farmers’ attempt to arm-twist the government into taking back laws irrespective of these having been passed by Parliament indicates the resistance that exists against the otherwise much desired economic reforms. There are, in fact, many such vested interests that attempt to scuttle the initiatives of the government, regardless of the nation’s requirements. It may be recalled that an anti-CAA activist, Sharjeel Imam, has been booked under stringent provisions for seeking to cut-off Assam from the rest of India in the attempt to pressurise the government.

It is not just the economy of Punjab that is under threat – the blockade will also be hindering the efforts of the Armed Forces in preparing for the possible stand-off with China at the LAC during the winter. Inadvertently, these farmers are undermining India’s security against a formidable enemy. How selfish can people be? The fact that goods train not plying has also affected the farmers’ in that their crops are not being transported to the rest of the country, and has led to them asking these resume operating. So, not only are they going to agitate, they want the government to facilitate it too?

Farmers’ politics has revolved around production of certain crops, and caste groupings, over the years. Mahendra Singh Tikait exemplified this phenomenon, stubbornly ploughing his own furrow regardless of other concerns. The activities of the sugarcane lobby in UP and Maharashtra, for instance, have long impeded transformation of the sugar industry. Governments have mainly worked around them but the situation has been aggravated by the role of social media, which provides an excellent platform for mobilisation as well as disinformation. Movements are these days being infiltrated and funded by forces inimical to India’s well-being, which complicates things further. The farmers should not fall prey to these agendas and must depend on informed negotiations with the governments, instead.