DNA Special: Meet members of committee constituted by SC to end farm laws impasse

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As the farmer’s agitation entered the 48th day on Tuesday (January 12), the Supreme Court put the three new contentious farm laws on hold and ordered to constitute a committee to be headed by a former Chief Justice of India to resolve the impasse between the Centre and farmers against the laws.

“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 viewpoints. 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,” noted the SC.

The SC also stayed the implementation of the farm laws until further orders. “In addition, the farmers landholdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws,” said the SC.

Commenting on the ongoing protest of the farmers at Delhi borders, the SC remarked, “While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmers’ bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.”

Bhupinder Singh Mann, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sangthana, Maharashtra; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati have been named in the panel. The apex court has ordered the committee to hold its first meeting within 10 days. The four-member committee will have to submit its report within two months after its first meeting.

Gulati is an eminent agriculture scientist and he received the Padma Shri award in 2015 for his contribution in this field. He was the youngest member of the Economic Advisory Council of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the first NDA regime. He is currently Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

Pramod Kumar Joshi is the director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), New Delhi.Earlier, he had held the positions of director of the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad as well as the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi.Previously, Joshi was South Asia Coordinator at the International Food Policy Research Institute and senior economist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Patancheru.

Farmer leader Bhupinder Singh Mann is the national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is part of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee. He was Rajya Sabha member from 1990-96. In a statement issued on December 14, the Agriculture Ministry had said Mann-led AIKCC members submitted a memorandum to it in favour of the farm acts.

Ghanwat said on Tuesday the new farm laws partially implement what his outfit has been demanding for decades. His attempt will be to improve them, he said, while coming out in support of reforms including permission for contract farming.

Meanwhile, several experts, Opposition leaders and farmer leaders have raised questions over the Supreme Court’s decision to form a committee. However, they welcomes the court’s decision to put the three laws on hold.

However, agitating farmer unions have said they want a complete repeal of the laws and they do not want to appear before any committee.”It is clear that the court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee. These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated for the same,” a statement issued by All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said.

“We welcome the court’s order to stay the implementation of the farm laws, but we want a complete repeal of these laws, which is our main demand,” Abhimanyu Kohar, a senior leader of the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, said. Another farmer leader, Harinder Lokhwal, said the protest will continue until the contentious farm laws are repealed.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also raised questions over the formation of the committee, asking can justice be expected from people who have given written support to the “anti-agriculture laws”. “This struggle will continue till anti-farmer-worker laws are repealed. Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan,” he tweeted.

Addressing a press conference, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party welcomes the Supreme Court’s concern over the farm laws, but the party has issues with the composition of the committee formed by it.He said the members of the committee have already expressed their views in the past favouring the new laws “so the question arises in our minds that how justice will be done to farmers by their hands”.

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