Fifty-six days after farmers — largely from Punjab and Haryana — blocked Delhi’s borders, demanding the repeal of farm laws, the government, on Wednesday, offered to suspend the farm laws for a period of 18 months and set up a committee with representatives from both sides to discuss all issues. The farm unions, on Thursday, rejected the proposal, reiterated their demand for a repeal of laws, and decided to continue protests. This is questionable, both in terms of principle and tactics. This newspaper has stressed that the farm laws will open up India’s agricultural markets, enable greater choice for farmers, and create a mechanism for closer agri-industry interface. The ideal scenario would have been sticking to reforms after winning over the protesting farmers and addressing their reservations. But the government’s decision to retreat was understandable. The political logic of continuing with the reforms, in the face of the mass movement, at a time when there are multiple other crises facing the nation, was becoming increasingly untenable. With its offer, the government was hoping to send a signal of reconciliation, defuse a potentially volatile situation, and buy time. The retreat holds a lesson — any structural economic change must involve wider democratic deliberation.