Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
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While ushering in a set of reforms that liberalise agricultural markets to benefit farmers, the government is, ironically, facing huge protests.

The reforms will allow farmers to sell their produce directly to anyone they want, and they should have welcomed the new laws, as they free them from the clutches of middlemen and could provide them better price for their produce. But instead, the farmers fear that the reforms could pave the way for the government withdrawing from its obligation of procuring agricultural produce at minimum support prices (MSP).

While the government has assured that it will not back away from procurement at MSP, the protests continue. The opposition to the laws is so vehement that instead of amendments to the laws, the farmers are, unfortunately, asking for their repeal.


Also read: Modi govt walks the talk on agriculture reforms. Now, fix the loopholes


Mechanisms for consultation in other countries

As changing laws and regulations are a regular feature of all modernising societies, many countries have devised ways so that disagreements happen before enactment of laws. For example, if we look at what Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries do, we find institutionalised arrangements for consultations with those affected by laws and regulations, including citizens, businesses, civil society and others.

According to the OECD’s Best Practice Principles on Stakeholder Engagement in Regulatory Policy, stakeholder consultation improves the quality of rule-making by collecting ideas, expertise and evidence from stakeholders about problems to be solved and possible solutions to address them. The objective is to ensure that the legislation responds to the needs of those governed, strengthens trust in governance, and ensures compliance.

Another tool of legislative and regulatory best practices followed in a number of countries is Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). When designing a law, policy, regulation or rule, governments need to consider its likely effects. Often, government intervention has costs which might outweigh the anticipated benefits. As a result, there are negative consequences of badly designed interventions whose impacts are felt more deeply by small, unorganised and marginal sections of society.

RIAs help governments in choosing the regulatory intervention best suited to achieve public policy goals. OECD’s principles lay down a framework for implementing RIA systems. Every RIA should include a clear definition of the problem, the objective that is sought to be achieved through legal and regulatory intervention, description of the legislative proposal, identification of alternatives, analysis of benefits and costs, identification of the preferred solution and monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

Another example of a consultative process is the Productivity Commission in Australia. It is an agency of the government that provides independent advice and information to governments and helps in communicating ideas to stakeholders. It acts as a bridge between the government and stakeholders.

Some countries bring out policy and guidance notes on how they intend to transform the old legislations to serve the economy and society better. These policy documents are seen as important channels of conversation between the government and stakeholders. A series of such documents are released and open for public comments before articulating the intent into a legislation.

For example, in 2011, the South African government came out with a document that proposed changes to the financial regulatory architecture to strengthen the system post the global financial crisis. In 2013, the government came up with another document that provided more detailed proposals on implementing the ideas of the 2011 document. This was prepared by a committee comprising officials from the financial regulatory institutions.

Consequently, the first draft of the Financial Sector Regulation Bill was published in December 2013 for public comments. After receiving public comments and after numerous interactions with stakeholders, the second draft of the bill was released in December 2014 for public consultation. It finally became an act in 2017.


Also read: APMC laws had shackled farmers, Modi govt’s ordinance makes them as free as other sectors


The process in India

In India, the process of reform, particularly financial sector reform, has been committee-based. Various expert groups and committees would be set up to engage with stakeholders. For example, the inflation targeting framework was proposed by the Mistry Committee, the Rajan Committee, the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) and the Urjit Patel Committee. Discussions on the proposed reforms went on for years. Many radical ideas were discussed ad nauseam, and over time, the question changed from why were they needed, to why the government was taking so long to usher in these reforms.

When changes are introduced through a process of consultation and engagement, there is time to discuss the possible threats and unintended outcomes. It also gives time to people to get used to the new ideas without friction and loss of trust. Bad ideas can be dumped, and good ones can be made better. By reducing miscommunication and false narratives, an institutionalised consultative process can dampen political mobilisation around the reform process and prevent roll-backs.

India could adopt similar expert committee-based arrangements, cost-benefit analysis, RIAs, white papers and consultation processes for reforms.

Ila Patnaik is an economist and a professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

Radhika Pandey is a consultant at NIPFP.

Views are personal.


Also read: Why Modi govt’s contract farming ordinance is a win-win for farmers, buyers & even traders


 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. TRUST DEFICIENCY IS THE BASIC REASON FOR THIS AGITATION THIS GOVERNMENT NEVER CONSULTED FOR ANY REFORM. DEMONETISATION IS TYPICAL EXAMPLE FOR THIS. THE GOVT., CHANGED GOALPOST TO JUSTIFY DEMONETISATION. FARMER LAW IS LIFE AND DEATH FOR FARMERS. THE LAW SURRENDERS EVERYTHING TO CORPORATES AND GOVT., WASH OF HANDS
    FOR THE FOOD SECURITY OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. BUT PUNJAB AND HARIYANA FARMERS SHOULD BE APPRECIATED BECAUSE THEY HAVE LED THE PEACEFUL AGITATION FOR MORE THAN A MONTH. UNFORTUNATELY GOVT., DID NOT HEED.. NOW THIS AGITATION IS REENFORCEDBY VILONCE TARGETTING AMBANI AND ADONI. MOBILE TOWERS OF JEO BROKEN AND NO. OF TOLL GATES ARE OPEND FOR PUBLIC WITHOUT TOLL. NOW THE GOVT., HAS STARTED NEGOTIATION. MAY BE BECAUSE OF PRESSURE BY AGGRIEVED. ARE WE IN DEMOCRACY OR IN DICTATORSHIP

  2. The correct strategy to fight out the current crisis would be-
    1. Govt may announce postponment of date for enactment of new farm laws til future notification.
    2. Meantime, Call special session in parliament to adress only the crisis.
    3. Invite farm leaders in the discussion session.
    4. Till then let the earlier law prevail as such.

    There is no point in either party sticking to their gun and linger the agitation.

  3. The lesson: The Govt should also plan for the campaign upfront sublimely and as direct campaign with focus on targeted audience, who are perceived to be benefited/affected to ensure that it is not overtaken by vested interests due to political mileage.
    As in one of National Interest talk by Shekar Gupta , he explained why there is so much opposition from only from certain region of farmers who are heavily invested in the rabe and kharif crops which are yielding much profit as they used to be due to over productivity and how other so called backward states have made tremendous head way in agriculture by growing for different crops . What’s the challenge ahead of Govt to change the behavior (subsidizing the farmers to get out of the rabe and kharif cultivation). The mounting food wastage (due to rotting in warehouse) and taxpayers money (through subsidized procurement due to MSP) need to be addressed promptly and whichever Laws that doesn’t favor the wellbeing of farmers/consumers need to be strike out for greater good. At the current situation even if the Private players are in , the subsidies are still going to continue which is continue going to cost tax payers and MSP is one such thing where the govt will have to take the burnt if the corporates are not ok with it. In other words, we are going to continue pay for our food directly and indirectly through subsidies to farmer. The only good thing is that FCI burden may be lessened in near future

  4. How can consultation occur, when Modi and the BJP are driven by Hindu wickedness ?

    They are not going to admit demonetisation was to win the UP elections, or CAA was brought to facilitate NRC whereby Muslims can be selectively bundled off to concentration camps, repeal of 370 was to facilitate Adani and Ambani taking over Kashmiro lands, or new farm laws are to take over land ownership and concentrate it in the hands of Adani.

    Parties that have ulterior motives do not consult. Covid is seen as an opportunity to take away worker’s protection about 8h per day.

    But over time, people realise – even all Hindus are not permanently stupid. India’s economy is sunk by Modi’s wickedness and incompetence, and India is going to go through civil unrest. It was bound to happen.

    • Bhai rasgolla, when are you starting campaign to merge country divided by Muslims. Your Hindu and Modi hate is next level. You guys are OK with 57 Muslims countries and many christian countries, but Hindu need to be ashamed of his existence.
      Know this your victim card has expired. Kagaz nikaal ke rakhna Nahi to Amit shah aa jayega

  5. Regrettably, this central government seems to think that all the wisdom vests in it. It does not believe in building consensus. Several changes which lead to serious protests could have been avoided, if the government were willing to consult the stake holders. The failure of reforming land acquisition is the biggest example. When Citizenship Amendment Bill was rammed through the Parliament, some sensible MPs suggested that the Bill be referred to select committee. The members promised that the bill could be put for vote on the first day of budget session. But, through manipulative politics the Government got the bill through and CAB became an Act. It lead to Shaheen Bagh protest and brutal communal violence of North East Delhi in the January this year. “I know what is good for you” attitude does not work.

    In the case of Farms law reform, the government is certainly not wrong. It is a welcome law. But, our country is full of fools and gullible people ready to be manipulated. The farmers don’t seem to know what is good for them.

    Besides, the protest against Farms law reform mainlys stems from Punjab which has been lagging behind almost all the other States during the last decade and a half. It was all the more necessary to make the intent of the government clear, allow public debate, parliamentary debate. Steamrolling the laws through the Parliament has its costs.

    • ‘ But, our country is full of fools and gullible people ready to be manipulated. The farmers don’t seem to know what is good for them.’

      You are a conceited upper caste. Farmers do not not understand that it is better for India if everything is in the hands of Adani.

  6. I don’t understand the so called consultation before any laws – financial or otherwise. You can be certain that this will be a sure way of either killing a good initiative or postponing indefinitely. Particularly on farm laws, these reforms have been pending at least for a decade if not more. The draft bills have been widely circulated and also have been discussed in the parliament. Now, if the majority of the MPs who represent people discuss and pass the laws what is the need for a separate consultation. As is well know the opposition comes mainly from Punjab mainly from vested interests, namely big farmers cum traders who anyway trample upon small farmers. They lose very heavily on the commission. Like CAA, we can very well expect the Modi Govt to stand firm in implementing these laws. Already the Govt announced important concessions and anything more will totally dilute the farm laws and the very purpose of the laws will be rendered meaningless

  7. I fully agree with your suggestion of consulting all stakeholders before making the laws and is followed by many countries.. However it is too much to expect this from present Govt.as it consider consultation, discussion as sign of weakness.

  8. The government has been doing it, only those who do not know, comment like this.
    Govt has been oushk g farmers to foam FPO.
    Media does not cover this, how many know the efforts of http://www.sfacjndia.com.
    Just saying, govt has not commj jcstex or consulted enough is lazy criticism, without due diligence

  9. Illaji it’s a political protest by vested interests.

    Hence no amount of communications would have helped.

    THE government should continue talking to farmers knowing fully well that they are trying hard to deprive the country’s meagre resources by selling produce at high prices irrespective of the quality and sell it in ration shops almost for free.

    THE country cannot afford these wastage of resources when crores of people live under poverty line even in cities and towns.

    Farmers are hard working and super patriots.

Comments are closed.