“The tail has wagged the dog.”

S. Srinivasan writes in ET on Saturday about the “tyranny of the minority”

Contentious issues in civilised societies can be sorted out only through one of the three avenues, namely, by observing an existing law, through discussion or through the judicial process. Since these were either absent or ineffective [in the case of Singur], the process gravitated to compulsion, never mind whether it was active or passive.

In the ultimate analysis, two thousand-odd farmers owning four hundred acres – some with dubious or no titles – had their way over ten thousand farmers owning over 600 acres. The tail has wagged the dog. Two issues are at stake here, namely community obligations and majority decisions.

Taking obligations first, the demand of this deprived rural community was to be left alone, untouched. This is rational, justified and must be respected. However, this group is also taking a list of freebies for granted. Subsidised power, diesel and fertilisers, irrigation facilities, roads, and a firewall against income tax form just a part of their list.

Should the rest of society foot this bill and if so, for how long? Since the agricultural sector, which involves over 60% of the population, contributes to a decreasing share – currently at 20% – of the GDP, they are likely to be on permanent life support. Is there no obligation on their part to extricate themselves from dependence or, alternatively, can there be a progressive and time-bound withdrawal of these props?

His argument is valid only so far as his opposition to the acts of a minority holding the majority to ransom, because later on in the article, he seems to advocate sticking to status quo – “The principle of decision by majority is fundamental to the operation and survival of society as known to us.”

Decisions, whether by a minority or by a majority, are not relevant. What is relevant, however, is that decisions made by those who have the right to take such decisions, be respected – by people and by law. A tyranny is a tyranny regardless of the identity of the tyrant – the minority, or the majority.

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  • blr_p  On February 5, 2009 at 1:22 am

    On the subject of farmer subsidy, what else could we call it…

    Was told by a lawyer that the govt. gurantees to buy a ‘significant’ amt of produce from the farmers. This goes into food stores in the event of any shortages.

    I’m not certain as to how competitive the price offered is but was led to believe this works to protect the farmers from the stiffing they get from middlemen.

    I’ve not read of such a scheme in the news but had only read how the private outfits reliance, ITC etc are helping the farmer by providing a direct route to the customer.

    Have you heard of any such govt. undertaking ?

    It would appear to dwarf any private equivalent.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 5, 2009 at 2:42 am

    Its a big socialist scam; the FCI is rotten – corrupt – to the core. So is the PDS. The farmers don’t get good prices because the government itself has instituted a mechanism which allows middlemen to loot the farmers; have written about it here. And the MSP – minimum support price – is jacked up every year for political reasons – the biggest beneficiaries being big farmers who control hundreds of acres of land; small farmers barely grow enough to feed their family.

    Corporate retail and corporate farming, along with direct corporate-farmer linkages will help the farmer. But barring a few companies, we still suffer from wholesale myopia.

    Have you heard of any such govt. undertaking ? It would appear to dwarf any private equivalent.
    No. But ‘retail’ is not a government forte. Plus it will have to worry about putting the livelihoods of crores of small traders at state – if it steps in. And that means losing votes.

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