- Highlight the right of people to protest peacefully for their grievances.
- List out the key concerns of various stakeholders.
- Suggest a course of action that you will take as a district magistrate.
Organized, non-violent protest marches were a key weapon in the struggle for independence. Hence, right to peaceful protest has been recognized as a fundamental right under Article 19, which is critical to maintain a vibrant democracy. However, hooliganism, vandalism and destruction of public property are wrongly being used as appendages to this democratic right. The use of force by the police to diffuse the situation further enrages the citizens. This complicates the task of administration and presents certain dilemmas.
The key concerns are:
- For Farmers – Justice for the families of the killed protesters; Short-term measures to provide livelihood support in light of fall in prices.
- For Administration – Making sure that movement of goods and people is not blocked; Diffusion of tensions and restoration of law and order; Safety and security of public servants and police personnel.
- For Society – Restoration of social and economic normalcy; Safety and security of common citizens and their property.
- For Political Parties – For party in power- To boost the morale of people and ensure that public trust remains intact; For opposition- Mechanism and platform to mobilize farmers and criticize the agricultural policies.
As the District Magistrate, the following steps are proposed –
- Initiate a dialogue with the farmers to formally register their grievances and persuade them to call off the protest temporarily.
- Announce an ex-gratia relief for the family of the deceased. Appoint a committee to conduct time-bound probe into the matter of death so that any lapses in handling of crowd may be ascertained and the general public may develop trust in administration.
- Simultaneously, provide for adequate security arrangements for unrestricted movement of goods and people from the district. By the time enough security forces cannot be mobilised, priority must be given to food and ration supplies and to those people who need to travel in emergency situation.
- Maintain strict vigil against violent actions and swiftly punish those involved in any violent activity.
- Advise the state government to provide immediate relief to protesting farmers. Government procurement of surplus, providing logistical support for storage of excess produce, and wage employment under MGNREGA can also be explored.
- Appeal to the political leaders to withdraw the protests in interest of law and order situation.
- An empathetic attitude for the farmers in distress needs to go hand-in-hand with zero tolerance to violence. Regular patrolling in sensitive areas, and strict action against unruly behaviour.
- The police also needs to be sensitized to not indulge in excesses and violation of human rights. Based on the findings of the committee, accountability for any excesses should be established.
- Check rumour-mongering and fake news by actively disseminating information to the citizens and media.
Positive steps to deal with the grievances and the core issue of falling prices of agricultural produce including the issue of the Minimum support price should be taken up. A proactive, farmer friendly image of the collector has to be created by demonstration of empathy for the genuineness of farmers anger. This emotionally intelligent handling of the issue could only restore normalcy essential for good governance.