The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 12 January, stayed the three controversial farm laws and formed a four member committee to take over negotiations with the farmers and "solve the problem."
The four members are:
Ashok Gulati: Agricultural economist
Bhupinder Singh Mann: President, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Mann)
Anil Ghanwat: President, Shetkari Sangathan
Pramod Kumar Joshi: International Food Policy Research Institute
It turns out that all four of these committee members have spoken or written in support of the farm laws and this has made many people question the impartiality of the committee.
Ashok Gulati, for instance, has hailed the farm laws and even compared them to the 1991 economic reforms. According to him, the laws are an important step towards getting "agri markets right".
Economist Ashok Gulati had praised the farm laws and compared them to the 1991 economic reforms.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, who heads his own faction of the BKU, is one of the few farm union leaders to have come out in support of these measures
“Reforms are needed in order to make agriculture competitive. But there should be safeguards,” Mann had said.
Farm groups under the banner of All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC), which is chaired by Mann, met Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in December and expressed their support for the new laws.
Mann’s background is also interesting. He was given a Rajya Sabha seat by the VP Singh government in 1990 at a time when farmers’ protests were banned in Punjab. Mann’s decision to accept the offer led to a split in the BKU. His son Gurpratap Singh Mann is a member of the Congress party and the party’s government in Punjab made him member of the Punjab Public Services Commission.
Anil Ghanwat, who heads the Maharashtra based Shetkari Sanghatana, has been speaking out against the demand for repealing the laws. Instead, he has called for amendments to address farmers' concerns, which is also the position the government came to occupy.
Pramod Joshi had accused farmers of “shifting goalposts”.
Ghanwat had also suggested a temporary stay on the laws, which is what the SC has now done.
Pramod Joshi had written an article in financial express during the negotiations between the Centre and farm unions, in which he had praised the government for its "positive response" and accused farmers of "changing goalposts".
Reactions from Farm Unions and Others
Already, the farm unions coordinating the protests at Singhu border and Tikri border have said that while the respect the supreme court, they won't meet the committee appointed by it.
The composition of the committee, may only vindicate the protesters' suspicions.
"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 3 Acts and have actively advocated for the same." - All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee
According to farmers’ rights activist Ramandeep Singh Mann, “Supreme Court has formed a committee on the farm laws, which has Ashok Gulati in it. He is a known supporter. Then there is Bhupinder Singh Mann, this is all wrong. We don’t accept them. We will return (from the protests) only when the laws are repealed”.
Agriculture economist Devinder Sharma shared a couplet from Mirza Ghalib, hinting that the committee’s work will be a foregone conclusion.
According to author Amaan Bali, who has been following the protests from when they began four months ago in Punjab, "It was an eyewash. Farmers unions were right in distancing themselves from it (the SC proceedings)“. He says that all four committee members are “known supporters of the government’s policies”.
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