The Ongoing Farmers’ Agitation

Justice Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.


The present ongoing Indian farmers’ agitation is of historical significance, and I wish to explain why.

  1. Our national objective must be to transform India from an underdeveloped country to a highly developed, highly industrialized one. Without doing so we will remain condemned to massive poverty, record unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment ( every second child in India is malnourished and/or stunted, according to Global Hunger index ), 50% of our women are anemic, almost total lack of healthcare and good education for our masses, farmers distress ( over 300,000 farmers have committed suicide ), skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs and fuel, widespread corruption, etc.
  2. This historical transformation of India from an underdeveloped to a highly developed country is only possible by a mighty people’s struggle, for there are powerful forces that will oppose it.
  3. For this mighty people’s struggle to succeed we must have unity among ourselves. Presently we are unfortunately divided on the basis of caste and religion. The agitations in India till now were mostly on the basis of religion, e.g. the Ram Mandir agitation, or on the basis of caste, e.g. the Jat, Gujar, and Dalit agitations. The present ongoing farmers’ agitation, whatever its outcome, has shattered the barriers of caste and religion, and has risen above it. Thus it has forged unity among our people. It has also kept our politicians, who often polarise society on caste or religious lines ( for vote banks ), at bay. This unity was absolutely essential, as mentioned above, and this is its real significance.

The farmers are demanding the repeal of the 3 farmers laws recently enacted by Parliament, at the behest of the Indian Government, and fixing a minimum support price ( MSP ) for their produce by law, while the govt appears unwilling to take these steps. To break this deadlock, the Supreme Court, in its recent hearing, has suggested withholding implementation of these laws to create a conducive atmosphere for holding talks. In a recent article published in I have said that the govt should accept this wise suggestion of the Court, and so should the farmers.

The govt must realize that farmers constitute over 60% of our huge population of 1.35-1.40 billion population, and this constitutes a huge vote bank, which it may lose in future elections if it antagonizes the farmers.

On the other hand, the farmers must realize that immediate repeal of the 3 laws will be a big loss of face for the govt. There is a principle of administration that the govt must not surrender under pressure, for if it does, it will be perceived as a weak govt, and then more pressures and demands will come. Presently the govt is under pressure from the farmers who have practically besieged Delhi and blocked roads leading to it. So it is unlikely to immediately repeal the laws.

The Supreme Court has offered a reasonable via media, and both sides would be well advised to accept it. The govt can say it has not repealed the laws, and the farmers can say they are not being implemented. This will be a partial success for both.

After withholding implementation of the 3 laws, the govt should set up a Farmers Commission consisting of representatives of the farmers’ organizations, govt representatives, and some agricultural experts, which should hold several meetings ( which may stretch over several months ) consider all aspects of the problems of the farmers, and then the consensus which emerges agreeable to all sides may be enacted as a law.

This to mind is the only reasonable solution of the present impasse. Both sides must bend a bit, and not take a too rigid and obdurate stand if the present standoff is to end. The alternative is too frightful to contemplate.