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Saturday, December 2, 2023

86% farmer groups supported 3 repealed laws: SC-appointed expert panel found

A panel of experts constituted by the Supreme Court of Bharat to study the three farm acts found that 86 per cent of organisations representing more than 3 crore farmers supported the laws the central government repealed last year after an almost year-long lawless protest at Delhi’s borders initiated by politically-influential middlemen (arhtiyas) and relatively rich farmers from Punjab.

The high powered panel, whose recommendations are of little consequence now, advocated retaining the three acts and suggested that states may be allowed flexibility in implementing and designing them with the central government’s approval. It said that repealing or suspending of the farm laws would be unfair to the silent majority who supported the laws.

The Supreme Court (SC) set up the panel in January 2020 while staying the implementation of the three laws. It initially had four members: agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat, International Food Policy Research Institute’s Pramod Kumar Joshi and Bhupinder Singh Mann, president of a faction of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.

Mann later recused himself from the panel.

SC sat on panel’s report that was submitted on March 19, 2021

The three-member panel had submitted its report to the top court in a sealed cover on March 19 on measures to end the deadlock. But for reasons best known to it, the SC refused to make the report public.

The panel had held 12 rounds of consultations with various stakeholders, including farmers groups, farmer producers’ organisations (FPOs), procurement agencies, professionals, academicians, private as well as state agriculture marketing boards.

“It has been eight months since we submitted the report after studying the three farm laws. It should now be made public… After the government’s decision to repeal the farm laws in the coming Winter Session of Parliament, it (report) is not relevant with regard to the three laws…But there are other suggestions on farmers’ issues,” panel-member Ghanwat told The Tribune in November, 2021.

He said there was a meeting held on Monday and discussed in detail whether to make the report public or not. “The other two members gave me the freedom to take a call on this issue. I will decide after analysing the legal consequences, if any,” he said.       

Ghanwat had also written to the Chief Justice of India to make the report public, saying its “recommendations will pave the way to resolve the ongoing farmers’ agitation.”

The panel’s complete report is expected to be made public soon.

Vested interest groups & extremists harmed Bharat’s farmers as Indian State watched

SC had repeatedly appealed to the protest leaders to call of their protest as the new farm laws had been suspended and it was looking into several petitions against the laws. It also asked the farmers to engage with the expert panel and discuss their objection to the laws. The Centre also held 11 rounds of discussions with the protesting farmers and even offered to amend some provisions.

But all these entreaties were contemptuously brushed aside by the protest leaders, who were being egged on by the Lutyens’ intelligentsia like Pratap Bhanu Mehta etc to reject the authority of courts and Parliament. The protestors stuck to their maximalist stand of complete repeal, and even added a new demand for a legal guarantee on MSP (Minimum Support Price) for almost all crops. Even petitions in SC from common citizens whose life was thrown into disarray by the blocking of highways and the illegal occupation of public land, had no impact on the protestors.

The violence unleashed by the protestors on 26 Jan 2021, when hundreds deviated from a fixed tractor rally route, clashed with police and stormed into the Red Fort to raise a Sikh religious flag shocked the nation. Incredibly, the govt. and courts failed to clear the illegal protest sites even then, and the protests dragged on. After almost a year of protests, PM Modi in a televised address to the nation on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, announced to repeal all the three laws, reportedly due to fear of ‘further unrest’ in Punjab.

The just concluded assembly elections in UP and Punjab showed that the protest leaders had no real mass support. BJP recorded a resounding victory in UP and in Punjab, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal finished a humiliating sixth and failed to save his security deposit while contesting from Ludhiana.

It is a travesty that political intrigue in one state, and the security threat posed by Sikh supremacists and separatists who were allowed to peddle their agenda in guise of ‘farmers rights’, managed to veto reforms that would have benefitted farmers across the nation. The hope is that these reforms will not be abandoned and will now be adopted at state level, but this episode just goes to show the various vested interests and institutions working at cross purposes in our flawed liberal-secular-electoral democracy.

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