Farmer leaders, Opposition welcome SC stay on farm laws; Some raise doubts over neutrality of panel formed to end impasse

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New Delhi, Jan 12 (PTI) Farmer leaders and opposition parties welcomed the Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday to stay the implementation of the three farm laws, but some of them expressed doubts over the neutrality of the committee formed by the top court to end the impasse over the contentious legislations.

The agitating farmers also asserted that they would not call off their protest until the newly enacted legislations are repealed.

'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,' a statement issued by All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said.

Addressing a press conference, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party welcomes the Supreme Court's concern over the farm laws, but the party has issues with the composition of the committee formed by it.

He said the members of the committee have already expressed their views in the past favouring the new laws 'so the question arises in our minds that how justice will be done to farmers by their hands'.

While staying the laws, the top court set up a four-member committee to resolve the impasse between the Central government and the farmers' unions protesting at Delhi's borders over the legislations.

The four members of the committee are Bhupinder Singh Mann, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkeri Sangthana, Maharashtra; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati.

The farmer leaders also said they are not willing to participate in any proceedings before a committee appointed by the Supreme Court, but a formal decision on this will be taken by the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of around 40 protesting farmer unions.

'We welcome the court's order to stay the implementation of the farm laws, but we want a complete repeal of these laws, which is our main demand,' Abhimanyu Kohar, a senior leader of the Morcha, told PTI.

Another farmer leader, Harinder Lokhwal, said the protest will continue until the contentious farm laws are repealed.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambram said the concern expressed by the Supreme Court over the farmers’ protests is 'justified and welcome in the situation created by a stubborn government'.

'The decision to form a Committee to help find a solution is well-intentioned. However, the composition of the four member committee is puzzling and sends contradictory signals,' he said on Twitter.

Another Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill tweeted, 'After Supreme Court stay order, Agriculture Minister must resign as it is the total incompetence, irrational & irresponsible behaviour of the BJP Govt due to which Judiciary had to step in-Stay Order is a tight legal slap on BJP dictatorial law making and imposing mechanism.' Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad's Pawar also welcomed the apex court's decision to put on hold the implementation of three farm bills and set up the committee to resolve the issues. 'It is a big relief for farmers and I hope that a concrete dialogue between the Central government and farmers will be initiated now, keeping the farmers interests and wellbeing in mind,' he said.

Echoing similar views, DMK chief M K Stalin also welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court, saying this is a victory for farmers protesting across India.

'I once again urge the Union government to commit to repealing the farm laws in the next Parliament Session,' he said.

The top court has sought the cooperation of the protesting farmers and made it clear that no power can prevent it from setting up a panel to resolve the impasse over the controversial farm laws.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at several border points of Delhi since November 28 last year, demanding a repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) system for their crops.

Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the 'mandi' (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. PTI TRS BUN PR ASK PYK PYK