Farmers welcome Supreme Court order but reject 'pro-government' committee
The Supreme Court's Tuesday verdict of putting a stay on the implementation of farm laws was appreciated by protesting farmers but the four-member committee was not since it is "pro-government." Farmers' groups said last evening that members of the committee supported the three laws, which are at the core of their agitation. In sharp contrast, the Centre dubbed the panel as "impartial." Here's more.
Demanding that the three contentious laws are rolled back, farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders since November. They have also participated in eight rounds of talks but the Centre's determination to not repeal laws miffed them. When the top court took up the matter, it said it can, and eventually did, stay the implementation. Attorney General KK Venugopal called this decision "drastic."
During the hearing yesterday, Chief Justice SA Bobde-led bench emphasized it was forming a panel to find a solution to the problem. "Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the committee. The committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us," the top court said.
The panel has Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President of Bhartiya Kisan Union and the All India Kisan Coordination Committee as a member. Other members are 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.
After the names were revealed, the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, which has been spearheading the protest, plainly rejected the panel. "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 from the body read.
Similarly, Krantikari Kisan Union President Darshan Pal reminded that they had said on Monday the committee won't be acceptable to them. "We knew the government would take the burden off its shoulders," he claimed. Balbir Singh Rajewal of BKU (Rajewal) dubbed the committee members "pro-government." "Even principally, we believe committees are just a way to divert attention," he said.
Rajewal also revealed that the January 26 tractor parade, which the Centre wants the top court to stop, will happen and it will be "peaceful." Rebuffing SC's suggestion that the elderly must leave the protest site, he underlined, "Seniors don't want to leave the protest site. No one will leave the protest sites till the laws are repealed."
A couple of farmers' unions were particularly angry that Mann is a part of the panel. Satnam Singh Pannu of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (Punjab) claimed he knows him well. "He has been supporting political parties during elections. We will not appear before the panel," he added. Ajmer Singh Lakhowal of BKU (Lakhowal) highlighted that Mann has written in favor of laws.
While the farmers expressed disappointment at the choice of committee members, Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary called it "impartial," the first official reaction from the government. The panel's report will dictate SC's decision, he said. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader added, "SC order is against our wish. We want the laws to continue. However, the order is 'sarva-manya' (acceptable to all)."