Why Farmers Won, People Lost

News: Lesson that can be learnt from the farm laws episode for navigating reforms in the future.

Economic reforms produce winners and losers. In the case of farm laws, losers were the relatively large farmers with a marketable surplus, who feared losing the protection of the minimum support price (MSP).

On the other side, potential winners were the larger public, who would have benefitted by way of a cleaner environment and lower agricultural prices. Further, the money saved on MSP could be spent on social welfare measures.

In theory, any reform measure where the winners gain more than the losers will be passed successfully. But this theory failed in the case of farm laws.

Analysing what went wrong, will help us to prepare better in the future.

What lesson can we learn from the farm laws episode for navigating reforms in the future?

Firstly, major reforms should be done with public consultation. In the absence of dissemination of right information about the reforms, minority interest groups are able to uphold their own interest over the majority’s.

Secondly, interest group dynamics, biases, and even misinformation should be dealt properly.

Thirdly, governments need to invest effort into communication and consultation to prevent the debate from getting hijacked by a narrow interest group.

Must Read: The farm law fiasco offers 7 key lessons on how to reform in a democracy

Source: This post is based on the article “Why Farmers Won, People Lost” published in TOI on 14th Dec 2021.

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