Our poll shows that farm laws are popular. Modi was right in his assessment
EExpert opinions, slander, praise, celebration and self-flagellation have been flowing like the Brahmaputra river since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on the morning of November 19, in Guru Parab, that his government would repeal the three agricultural laws. At CVoter, it was decided to leave the expertise to the experts and conduct an opinion poll across India to find out what ordinary Indians thought about the matter. This was part of our India Tracker routine, where we interview randomly selected Indians from all states in 11 languages every day. This particular snapshot covered the opinion of around 3,000 people polled across India, just after the Prime Minister’s announcement.
The tracking items analyzed on the timeline cover approximately half a million respondents in the past 12 months. The questions were drafted after much debate and the survey was conducted. The results offer some common sense lessons for policy makers as well as those who often think they know more than policy makers.
Read also : Modi government’s agricultural laws mishap will hurt urbanization
Agricultural laws were popular
Lesson number one was that large sections of Indians supported the three farm laws despite the humble announcement of a repeal by Narendra Modi. When asked whether farm laws were good for farmers or not, more than 50 percent responded that they were indeed good. Interestingly, nearly 47 percent of opposition supporters and voters agreed that farm laws were good for farmers. In previous CVoter Tracker polls, it was also clear that large numbers of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western UP were against farm laws, but an equally overwhelming number of farmers outside of these two and a half estates in all other states were in support of these farm laws.
We got further clues when interviewees were asked whether the protests were politically motivated to weaken the BJP. Almost 6 in 10 respondents agreed with the proposal, with half of opposition voters also agreeing. Third, when respondents were asked whether farm laws should be reintroduced after more consultation, half of the respondents agreed and the remaining quarters disagreed and remained silent. Clearly, despite the “clearance sale” blasts to people like Ambani and Adani, farm reform laws remain popular.
Is it only political?
The second lesson is that politics was inextricably linked to the problem. This is to be expected. Everything in India these days, from cricket to Bollywood to food choices, is a matter of politics. For any analyst to expect anything else is to be naive, even extremely stupid. When asked if the repeal of agricultural laws would have an impact on the parliamentary elections scheduled for early 2022, more than 55% of those responding said ‘yes’, with a higher proportion of respondents saying yes. opposition voters agree. Only 31 percent of those polled believed that there would be no impact on parliamentary elections. The political polarization is clearly visible in the responses. The majority of NDA supporters believed the protests were at the behest of a small group of wealthy farmers, while the majority of opposition supporters believed the protests were a mass movement.
Read also : Five lessons the saga of farm laws taught Indians
The third lesson, and perhaps the most important, is that you cannot impose even good policies on people without giving them the impression that they have been properly consulted. There is no doubt that farm laws were a good reform measure, especially for small farmers in the long run. But the way in which first an ordinance was passed, and then the laws hastily passed in Parliament, upset many farmers. The de facto admission of this simple fact comes from the substantial majority (52 percent) of NDA supporters who agreed that the laws should be resubmitted after extensive consultation. On top of that, one in two NDA supporters said Modi had done a good thing by repealing farm laws.
This simple saying was best summed up by ThePrint editor, Shekhar Gupta, when he wrote hours after the laws were repealed: “The first mistake with agricultural laws was to introduce them in the form of prescriptions… You can get away with this. with her on issues which already have a large consensus or which concern a small number of people. But when you are dealing with an issue of the highest political sensitivity like agriculture, directly affecting nearly half of your population, do you have to do it through ordinances? I guess the problem wasn’t much with the laws, but the way the laws were presented.
Concern for reforms
The fourth lesson is the most dangerous when it comes to the future of reforms. Over 40 percent of those polled said Prime Minister Modi succumbed to pressure on these issues, as he did with the land acquisition bill in 2015. At the time, nearly 70 percent of those polled in CVoter Tracker felt that the land acquisition bill seemed anti-peasant and anti-poor. Something went wrong in messaging then, and something went wrong in messaging now. For a strong man like Modi, that’s a sobering assessment. His apology came with a clear understanding that the government could not convey to some farmers why this was a good move. Additionally, an even larger number of people interviewed said his U-turn was because he respected the feelings of the public. It’s a polite way of saying a nasty thing.
Other questions were raised about ongoing and pending reforms. About 43 percent of those polled said unions will pressure the government to withdraw labor reform measures. In addition, 48 percent said there would be pressure to stop privatization. These fears in public sentiment are not unreal, given the unpredictable abstract “andolanjivi“voices that have started to rise on television screens about everything that is going on under the sun.
Read also : Farm laws nullify chance to reach consensus, stopping reform train, experts say bad idea
MSP recipe for disaster
But the most insidious indicator is the response when people were asked whether leaders of farmers’ unions were correct in demanding that parliament pass a law guaranteeing PSM for the 23 crops that benefit from it. Over 42 percent of respondents said farm leaders were right, while just over 46 percent said they were not right. The economy is simple: calculations at the bottom of the envelope suggest that 50% of the Union budget will be devoted to procurement if PSM is guaranteed by law. The remaining 50% may be left to other expense items. Even armchair socialists would agree that this will be a sure-fire recipe for economic ruin and disaster. But we also have to answer the farmers’ questions. Their mistrust will remain until the private sector actually comes up with a proven system of better income for the “annadata”. They won’t like jumping off the ship until they see others sailing on a better ship.
But who will have the moral and political courage to stop this slide into madness? Modi’s sidekicks still think he can. But faith, as they say, is eternal.
Yashwant Deshmukh is Founder of CVoter and Sutanu Guru is Executive Director of CVoter Foundation. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)
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