Farmers' stir: SC indicates setting up panel to break deadlock; protesters say no solution

·6-min read

New Delhi, Dec 16 (PTI) Observing that the Centre’s talks with the protesting farmers have 'not worked apparently' and were bound to fail, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stepped in and indicated forming a panel to break the three-week long deadlock, but the farm leaders dismissed the move as no solution.

The top court also said the agitation may soon become a “national issue”.

As the protests at the border points of Delhi for the repeal of the three new farm laws entered the 21st day, police said a Sikh preacher supporting the agitation allegedly committed suicide near the Singhu border.

A handwritten note in Punjabi, purportedly left behind by the deceased, says he was unable to bear the 'pain of farmers'. The note is being verified by the police.

An official of the Sonipat police said they had received a call that Sant Ram Singh (65), who hailed from Singhra village in Nissing area of Karnal district, allegedly shot himself.

He was rushed to a hospital in Panipat where doctors declared him brought dead.

With the government and the leaders of the protesting farmers unable to break the impasse, a three-judge bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde mooted a committee to resolve the dispute.

“We will form a committee to resolve the dispute. We will have members of the government, members from farmer organisations in it. This may soon become a national issue. We will have members from farmer organisations from rest of India,' the court said. The parties involved were also asked to propose a list of names of committee members.

Multiple pleas have been filed in the top court seeking a direction to authorities to immediately remove the protesting farmers, saying commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The apex court issued notices to the Centre on the petitions which also sought an amicable solution of the dispute.

During a hearing conducted via video conferencing, the bench directed the petitioners to make protesting farmer unions parties to the pleas and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.

The court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, 'Your negotiations have not worked apparently.' 'It is bound to fail. You are saying you are willing to negotiate,' the bench told Mehta, who replied, 'Yes, we are willing to talk to farmers.' When the apex court asked the solicitor general, who was representing the Centre to give names of the farmer organisations, which are blocking the roads on Delhi borders, he said he can provide the names of those with whom government is holding discussions.

'There are members of Bharatiya Kisan Union and other organisations who are talking to the government', Mehta said, adding that government is talking with the protesting farmer organisations and he can give those names to the court.

He also said 'now, it appears that others have taken over the farmers' protest.' Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who is leading the government side in the negotiations, meanwhile, said the ongoing agitation at Delhi's border points is limited to one state and farmers of Punjab are being 'misled' by the Opposition. He, however, expressed hope that there will be a solution 'soon' to the ongoing impasse.

Protesting farmer unions said constituting a new panel to break the stalemate on the three new agri laws is not a solution as they want a complete withdrawal of the legislations. They also said the government should have formed a committee of farmers and others before the laws were enacted by Parliament.

Abhimanyu Kohar, a leader of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sabha which is one of the 40 protesting farmer unions, said they have already rejected a recent government offer to form such a panel.

Taking to Twitter, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, who is also a member of umbrella group Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, said, 'The SC can and must decide on the constitutionality of the 3 farm acts. But it is not for the judiciary to decide on the feasibility and desirability of these laws. That's between the farmers and their elected leaders. SC monitored negotiation would be a wrong path.' Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), which has been leading the agitation at Tikri border, said that there would be no meaning of a new committee now.

The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha wrote a letter to the Centre asking it to stop holding 'parallel talks' with other farmer bodies over the contentious legislations.

With the government saying that it is waiting for the reply of farmer leaders, the Morcha said there was no question of responding as they had made their stand clear in the last round of meeting with Union ministers that they want the laws to be repealed.

In the letter to Union Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Joint Secretary Vivek Aggarwal, the Morcha said the Centre should also stop 'defaming' the ongoing protests being held against the farm laws.

During the day, security arrangements were tightened at the Chilla border between Delhi and Noida as farmer union leaders threatened to completely block the key border point to press for their demands.

Speaking to reporters in Gwalior and at a virtual conference, Tomar insisted that the new agriculture reforms will change the lives of the farmers.

He also accused the Congress and Left parties of taking advantage of the farmers' protest to malign the image of the government.

'We are talking to farmer organisations and also those from Punjab. We will soon find a solution on the issue. The opposition is trying to mislead farmers, but it will not succeed,' Tomar said.

Addressing a convention in Indore, his ministerial colleague Dharmendra Pradhan alleged that anti-Indian, feudalistic force was behind the agitation. He claimed this force was also against the concepts of 'Bharatiyata' (Indianness) and India's self-reliance.

Questioning the protest, he said, 'Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has agreed to give a written guarantee that the system of procurement of crops at MSP will continue in the country. Then on what issue the farmers' agitation is happening?' BJP's Gujarat chief C R Paatil also alleged that the ongoing agitation was a planned conspiracy by the opposition parties to create anarchy in the country and to destabilise it.

Hitting out at the Congress, he said, 'Congress was in favour of these agricultural reforms when it was in power. But now, the opposition party is spreading falsehood and misguiding farmers. People need to identify such forces and remain cautious about their motives.' Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the issues flagged by the agitating farmers can be solved in five minutes if Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself steps in.

'The government can solve the issue in 30 minutes sitting with the (agitating) farmers, if it wants...I think the issue will be solved in five minutes if the prime minister himself intervenes,' he told PTI. PTI MNL ABA SJK MNL BUN AMP HWP ADU MAS ENM PJT PD SUN VSD ZMN GSN GSN GSN