Member quits SC's panel formed to talk with protesting farmers
Bhupinder Singh Mann, the President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, on Thursday quit the four-member committee formed by Supreme Court to talk with farmers who have been protesting against three farm laws for over a month. The 81-year-old's inclusion in the panel upset farmers' unions, as he had spoken in favor of the laws. He said he doesn't want to "compromise farmers' interests."
In a statement, Mann said he was honored that SC put him on the important panel. But considering the current sentiments, he is "ready to sacrifice any position." Saying he doesn't wish to "compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country," Mann said he is exiting the panel. "I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab," he added.
With his exit, the panel now has Pramod Kumar Joshi, an Agricultural Economist and Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, another Agricultural Economist who was the ex-Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana; as members. On Tuesday, CJI SA Bobde-led bench said it was forming the panel to find a solution.
The top court also put a stay on the implementation of three laws, despite the Centre's objection. While the stay was welcomed by farmers, they disagreed with the idea of forming a committee, saying it's the government's way of brushing off responsibilities. Satnam Singh Pannu of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh highlighted that Mann supported parties during elections to tell that the panel won't be impartial.
Notably, Mann was a part of the delegation that met Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar in December and expressed support for the laws, passed in mid-September. In fact, other panelists also favored the laws. Gulati penned several opinion pieces saying these laws will benefit the farmers. One of his pieces was titled 'Challenges to farm bills harken to socialist era, attempt to undo agriculture's 1991 moment.'
Separately, Joshi also wrote opinion pieces in favor of the laws. In one for Financial Express, he said, "Any dilution in the farm laws will constrain Indian agriculture in harnessing the emerging global opportunities." And Ghanwat said farmers must be able to choose the buyer for their produce but also added that government shouldn't have gone ahead with the legislation without consulting farmers.
"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, (sic)" he told NDTV, as he welcomed the apex court's verdict.
To recall, farmers and the Centre have spoken eight times but dialogue has failed to end the impasse. The protesters said they would not settle for anything less than a complete repeal of the laws, but the government didn't accept their demands, saying amendments are the best it can offer. The farmers have now planned a tractor march on January 26 in Delhi.