Farmers protest and right to freedom by Avlin at LEXCLIQ

Introduction

Farmer protest in India is not a new thing. It has been occurring for ages. Farmer’s protest originated in the times of the pre-independence era in our nation. Farmer protest is usually carried by the left-wing political parties who have a Marxist approach towards both growth and development. The farmer protest arises due to various reasons like forcible adoption of land by the industrialists, clearing of farmlands for setting up business enterprises or educational institutions, issues regarding the sale of agricultural produce, taxation or infrastructural problem, etc. the ongoing farmer protest in India is a politically motivated and a futile one with no sound reason or valid proof.

To participate in public protest, the right to freedom of speech & expression, association, and peaceful assembly are necessary.

Right to Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly

  • The Right to free speech and expression transforms into the right to freely express an opinion on the conduct of the government.
  • The Right to the association is required to form associations for political purposes — for instance, to collectively challenge government decisions and even aim, peacefully and legally, to displace the government to not merely check abuse of power but also to wrest power.
  • The Right to peaceably assemble allows political parties and citizenship bodies such as university-based student groups to question and object to acts of the government by demonstrations, agitations, and public meetings, to launch sustained protest movements.
  • The right to freedom of speech and expression is a free expression of opinion on the government’s action.
  • For example, to jointly challenge government decisions and even try, peacefully and lawfully, to displace the government, not only to check abuse of power but to wrest power, the right to association is needed to create associations for political purposes.
  • The freedom to peacefully assemble helps political parties and civil society organizations, such as university student groups, by demonstration, unrest, and public meetings to challenge and object to government policies and to initiate ongoing protest movements.
  • The right of citizens to protest and peacefully gather without arms is a key aspect of India’s democracy. While it is also the government’s obligation to protect civilians from violent protests, the people engaging in the protest need to be mindful of their behavior.

The Right to Protest under the Indian Constitution – Rights of the Protesting Farmers.

In protesting against the actions, policies, declarations, state, government, or any other entity, a party or a society, or even a person, is typically to display their disapproval or resentment. The key driving force of the movement is political waves, which indicate that the collective organization of the population addresses its problems and takes measures to solve them. Protests typically operate in two ways, one is that they allow a specific group or culture to illustrate its differences with the politics in question and the other is that they help the government to recognize the gaps and change its policies and behavior.

Right to Protest: Constitutional Provisions

  • The Right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the Indian Constitution—Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression; Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
  • Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
    • In Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors. case (2012), the Supreme Court had stated, “Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action”.

Why are farmers so unhappy with the Central government?

  • A study by UNCTAD shows that for 20 years, between the mid-1980s and the mid- 2000s, the output price or the farm gate price of agriculture remained static across the globe. In other words, farmers’ income in the 2000s (after adjusting for inflation) remained the same as it was in the 1980s. Rich countries, of course, addressed this issue by providing direct income support and a whole lot of other privileges to the farming communities, but the developing countries could not afford it and farmers in these countries have silently suffered the consequences ever since.
  • Yet another report by the Economic Survey in 2016 tells us that the average income of a farming family in 17 states of India, about half the country, is only Rs. 20,000 a year, or less than Rs1,700 a month. I can’t even raise a cow in that amount! I shudder to think how the farming community has been surviving in half of India.
  • Yes, there were many flaws in the decades-old APMC Act, but critics believe that the need was to plug the loopholes instead of introducing a new system altogether. A similar system has already been introduced in America and some European countries where it has failed miserably, we can only hope this does not happen in India and government will not repeat those mistakes.
  • From the attitude of the government, the stand of the government is very clear that it is not going to change anything because already it has been termed as Masterstroke. Right now, it is just an Act both are results are possible; farmers income becomes double as said by the government, or their conditions worsen as feared by farmers. History is the best judge. While the intent of the Government is laudable, we will be able to see the results of these new Acts after few years only. Right now, everything is just speculation.

Conclusion

The right to protest is one of the basic principles on which democracy survives and thrives. But when the protest turns violent, as seen in some places in recent protests, it defeats the very purpose of the protest. While enjoying rights, one must carry out one’s own duties and responsibilities in a democratic society. Public protests are the characteristic of a free, democratic society, whose rationale allows people to hear their voices after proper debate and consultation and to take decisions. The right to freedom of speech, association, and peaceful assembly is key to engage in public protest.

 

 

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