By Nitya Chakraborty
Supreme Court of India these days are behaving in bizarre ways. After all the hearings on the petitions challenging the enactment of the three farm laws by the Narendra Modi Government in Parliament in a hurry during pandemic, the three member bench of the Court set up a four member committee for listening to the views of farmers and the Government for submitting recommendations. One positive thing is that the apex court stayed the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders.
Now the issue is that the farmers unions have made their position clear on the repealing of the three farm laws. Their lawyers have argued in the court before the bench. The Chief Justice himself admitted that the Government could not proceed in making a breakthrough in the talks with the agitating farmers. The imperative need is to work for a real solution and not to pass on the buck to delay the process. The panel members are already known for their pro-farm laws views. How can the learned bench members headed by the Chief Justice of India can expect that the farmers will agree to give their views to this panel and accept their recommendations.
The Committee comprises Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana. The Court also directed the Committee to submit its report within two months. Punjab farmers’ union has already announced that they do not 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, declaring that they would amp up their protests across the country.
While the protesting farmers have been demanding total scrapping of the farm laws, the four members have already expressed their views in support of the laws subject to some amendments.
Ashok Gulati, an Indian agricultural economist, in his opinion piece published in the Indian Express supported the three farm laws. He wrote that the economic rationale of these pieces of legislation was to provide greater choice and freedom to farmers to sell their produce and to buyers to buy and store, thereby creating competition in agricultural marketing. The noted agricultural economist compared the farm laws to the delicensing of the industry in 1991.That way, his position is very clear and how he can effectively talk with the farmers unions when they are demanding total repeal of the farm laws.
Pramod Kumar Joshi, who served as Director, South Asia Office of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) also holds an opinion in support of the farm laws. In his opinion piece published in ‘Financial Express’, he stressed that any dilution in the farm laws will constrain Indian agriculture in harnessing emerging global opportunities.
“The new farm laws will help India emerge as a leader in agriculture and agro-processing. They are also expected to build a new crop of agri-tech start-ups and innovation hubs in the farm sector,” Joshi said.
The Head of All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC), Bhupinder Singh Mann, has been demanding implementation of the farm laws. Last month, a group of farmers led by Mann handed over a memorandum to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Krishi Bhawan demanding that the three laws be implemented, with some amendments. Mann suggested some amendments on the lines of the Government thinking and that was already rejected by the agitating farmers.
Anil Dhanawat of the Shetkari Sanghatana also supported the farm laws conditionally. He sought some amendments in the laws. That way, all four members of the panel set up by the Supreme Court, have a definite views which more or less conform to that of the Government. So far, eight rounds of talks have been held between the Government ministers’ panel and the farmers unions but no breakthrough has been made. Then how the wise men of the Supreme Court expect that this panel members having the same views as the government, will be able to bring about a solution thereby ending the six week long agitation at the Delhi border.
The best course is for the Government to continue its dialogue with the farmers unions and work out a solution in consultations with them. The farm laws were framed without adequate consultations with the stake holders. Let the laws be repealed and fresh laws framed with enough safeguards for the farmers .There is no issue of ego here. The country will gain And that is what matters. . (IPA Service)