'Court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee,' the farmer unions said.

A big group of farmers protesting against the Centre's new farm lawsFile photo: PTI
news Farmers' protest Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 10:17

The protesting farmer unions at the Delhi border have expressed unhappiness with the committee formed by the Supreme Court to address their grievances on the contentious farm laws. The unions said that the members of the committee set up by the Supreme Court are pro-government. The Supreme Court appointed a committee comprising agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Bhupinder Singh Mann,  Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute Pramod Kumar Joshi, and President of Shetkari Sanghatana Anil Ghanwat.

The farmer unions said they will not participate in any court-ordered committee process. “Members of the Supreme Court panel are not dependable as they have been writing on how the farm laws are pro-farmer. We will continue our agitation,” the farmers said, addressing a press conference.

“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,” the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee said in a statement.

“Suspending the implementation of the laws as an interim measure is welcome but is not a solution and the farmer unions have not been asking for this solution, given the fact that the implementation can be reinstated at any time. The government must withdraw. It must understand that farmers and people of India are opposed to the laws,” the AIKSCC added.

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s order staying the implementation of the three farm laws and its decision to set up the committee, screenshots of the pro-farm laws views of the committee members went viral on social media.

The screenshots included Ashok Gulati’s article in the Indian Express titled ‘Why farm bills are a step in the right direction’, while Bhupinder Singh Mann of BKU had led a pro-farm laws delegation to seek their implementation. Mann had sought implementation of the farm laws with some amendments, which the Union government has agreed to accept.

Screenshots also showed that Anil Ghanwat of the Shetkari Sanghatana had voiced his opinion against withdrawing the farm laws and Pramod Kumar Joshi had co-authored an article stating that “any dilution in the farm laws will constrain Indian agriculture in harnessing the emerging global opportunities”.

While farmers across the southern states also embraced the Supreme Court’s interim stay on implementing the three controversial farm laws, they also expressed concerns over the formation of the committee by the apex court.

“How can we accept holding talks with a committee where two of the four members, Ashok Gulati and Pramod Joshi were involved in formulating the three farm laws? How can farmers have faith in such a committee?” Kodihalli Chandrashekar, President of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, questioned.

General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam T Shanmugam said, “I feel that the Supreme Court and the Union government are together trying to quell the protests in Delhi and hence the stay has been granted. But it is a temporary stay. I need to read the judgment and only then I can comment anymore on this,” he alleged.

Farmers agitating in New Delhi are slated to meet officials from the Ministry of Agriculture on January 15, where their demands would be discussed. Farmer leaders said that unless the Union government issues a written statement that it would unilaterally roll back the laws, the protests would continue. “Parliament’s decisions are more important than the Supreme Court’s interim order. The Parliament has the right to overlook the SC’s interim orders and do whatever it wants. Unless the Union government rolls back these laws, how can we believe a word they say?” Kodihalli Chandrashekar questioned.

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