SC panel on farm laws to begin work on January 19
- On January 12, after two days of deliberation, the Supreme Court had suspended the pro-reforms farm laws approved by Parliament in September.
A committee appointed by the Supreme Court to scrutinise three agricultural laws that have prompted farmers to stage a months-long protest will meet on January 19 for its first round of internal consultations, a member of the panel said.
On January 12, after two days of deliberation, the Supreme Court had suspended the pro-reforms farm laws approved by Parliament in September. Judges dealing with the case also appointed a four-man committee to look into farmers’ grievances over the laws.
The court had named economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Kumar Joshi as well as farm activists Bhupinder Singh Mann and Anil Ghanwat to the panel. A day later, Mann opted out of the committee, citing the “interests of farmers”.
Ghanwat, a member of the now three-member panel, told HT on Monday that the committee will start deliberations on January 19, which will include framing of issues before the committee.
According to the Supreme Court’s instructions, the committee had to meet within 10 days of its constitution and submit a report to the apex court in two months.
“In our first meeting, we will take note of our terms of reference and chalk out processes we will follow,” Ghanwat said. He said it was up to the Supreme Court to appoint a member in place of Mann, who has recused himself but the committee’s work would continue.
Ghanwat leads the Shetkari Sangathan, a farm organisation from Maharashtra that advocates pro-technology and pro-reform agricultural policies.
According to Ghanwat, the committee will examine the three farm laws and draw up a list of stakeholders for consultations, including farm unions, representatives of agribusinesses, scholars, scientists and even the government.
“Our basic terms of reference are to look into the laws and consult stakeholders with the objective of addressing grievances of farmers,” Ghanwat said.
The laws in question are the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a platform of farm unions leading protests against the laws, has however said its members would not appear before the committee.
“We have said this before and reiterate that our demand is a complete repeal of the laws and we will only talk to the government,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, a farm leader.
Farm unions on strike have also said all members of the court-appointed committee had previously publicly praised the laws that farmers want scrapped.
The farm unions are on a strike since November to demand the scrapping of three pro-reform farm laws they say will hurt their livelihoods, setting off a key political challenge to the Modi government.
A team of 41 representatives of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has been participating in negotiations with the Union government, represented by Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash.
Farmers want the three farm laws repealed but the government has rejected the demand. Nine rounds of talks so far have failed to break the deadlock.
Ordering the committee to scrutinise the laws, the court had said, "This committee will be for us. All of you people who are expected to solve the issue will go before this committee. It will not pass an order or punish you, it will only submit a report to us.”
The government has pushed a set of agricultural laws to ease restrictions in farm trade, allow traders to stockpile large quantities of food stocks for future sales and lay down a national framework for contract farming.
Tens of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi’s border points say the laws will erode their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
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