All the members of the Supreme Court-appointed committee to help resolve the ongoing farmers’ protest have taken pro-farm law stance in the past. The court, which was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the Centre’s farm laws passed in parliament in September, has named the committee Tuesday evening. In its order, the court said the committee will listen to the “grievances of the farmers relating to the farm laws and the views of the government and make recommendations”.
Farmers’ groups have said they would not accept the committee or hold discussions with them. The committee, they said, included members in favour of the farm laws. “We don’t accept this committee, all the members in this committee have been pro-government and these members have been justifying the laws,” said Punjab farmers’ unions.
All members favoured farm laws
The list of members includes Bhupinder Singh Mann, the national president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, an agricultural economist who is also the Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; Anil Ghanwat, the chief of Shetkari Sanghatana, who in articles written in the media have expressed views in favour of the farm laws.
Gulati, who was also one of the members of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council from 1999 to 2001, has written opinion pieces in national dailies, and also spoken to the media in support of the farm laws.
For instance, in December, he told the Times of India that the three farm laws would benefit the farmers. He has also written opinion pieces for the Indian Express, titled “Challenges to Farm Bills Harken Socialist Era, Attempt to undo Agriculture’ 1991 Moment,” and “We Need Laws that Give Farmers More Space to Sell Their Produce — New Farm Laws Fit This Bill”.
Shetkari Sangathan president
Ghanwat is the President of the Shetkari Sangathan, which is a group based out of Maharashtra that had celebrated the new farm laws.
Ghanwat told NDTV that farmers should get the right to market their produce and underscored the need to “reform” the new laws. Amendment of the existing laws was what the government had offered farmers, making it clear that there would be no repeal as they demanded.
He, however, also said the government should have consulted the farmers before going ahead with the legislation. Hailing the Supreme Court’s order that underscores the need for discussion, he said, “There was not much discussion with farmers’ organizations before the new agricultural law was made, due to which many misunderstandings have spread among the farmers.”
Man supported new farm laws
Mann was part of a group of farmers that met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar in December, to express their support for the new laws.
The fourth member of the committee, Joshi has written multiple opinion pieces in the past, supporting the new farm laws. In a piece co-written by him for the Financial Express, he said “Any dilution in the farm laws will constrain Indian agriculture in harnessing the emerging global opportunities.”
Scrapping the three farm laws will be disastrous for the entire agriculture sector, more so for the farmers,” reads another piece co-written by Joshi for the Financial Express.
‘We have power to appoint committee’
Ordering the formation of the committee today, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said. “We want to solve the problem and that’s why we are making the committee”.
“We have the power to appoint a committee, which will submit to us. All who are genuinely interested in solving the problem can go before the committee”.
In its order for the formation of the committee, the court made attendance mandatory for representatives of all the farmers’ bodies.
“The representatives of all the farmers’ bodies, whether they are holding a protest or not and whether they support or oppose the laws shall participate in the deliberations of the Committee and put forth their view points,” the court said.
“The Committee shall, upon hearing the Government as well as the representatives of the farmers’ bodies, and other stakeholders, submit a report before this court containing its recommendations,” the court said.
The committee members have to hold its first sitting within ten days and submit its report within two months.
The court has ordered a freeze on the farm laws over which thousands of farmers are holding an agitation on the borders of Delhi since November 26. The court had said the matter needs to be urgently solved.
“These are matters of life and death. We are concerned with laws. We are concerned with lives and property of people affected by the agitation. We are trying to solve the problem in the best way. One of the powers we have is to suspend the legislation,” Justice Bobde had said.