Farm leader opts out of SC panel citing farmers’ interest
Bhupinder Singh Mann, a key farm union leader appointed by the Supreme Court to a panel it had formed to scrutinise three contentious farms laws has declined the job, citing the “interests” of farmers.
Mann, a former MP and the national president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, a farm union, said he was “recusing” himself from the committee of four set by the Supreme Court to look into farmers’ grievances over the laws.
On January 12, the court had kept in abeyance the laws that have prompted hundreds of thousands of farmers to stage a months-long protest. It also set up a committee to start a dialogue with protesting farmers, comprising economists Ashok Kumar Gulati and PK Joshi as well as farm union leaders Anil Ghanwat and Mann as members.
The panel formed by the Supreme Court has attracted public criticism because all four members named for the panel had either endorsed the farm laws or suggested improvements. Protesting farm unions said such a committee was already biased in favour of reforms.
“As a farmer myself and a union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions among the farmers and public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as not to compromise the interests of Punjab and the farmers of the country,” Mann said in a press statement.
Mann is the chairman of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee, a platform of farm unions who have supported the farm laws. Mann had met Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar in December, urging him not to repeal the laws. This pitted him against hundreds of other farm unions demanding a repeal.
An official of the agriculture ministry declined to comment on Mann’s move, saying this was a Supreme Court-monitored process.
Farm unions protesting the laws to open up agricultural markets said they were indifferent to Mann’s decision. “Our stand is we will not take part in any consultations by the court-appointed committee because our only demand is repeal of the laws,” said Darshan Pal, a senior member of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, the organisation leading the farmers’ protests.
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