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Supreme Court panel: Got ideas to improve farm law rollout

Committee members Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sanghatana and agricultural economists Parmod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati held discussions Thursday with 10 farmer organisations via video link to seek their views on the new laws that Punjab farmers want repealed.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: January 22, 2021 8:38:12 am
Farm leader Ajay Anmol after the meeting of the Supreme Court committee in New Delhi on Thursday. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

A day after the Centre offered to keep the newly enacted farm laws in abeyance for 18 months to end the farmer protests at the gates of Delhi, the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee, already rejected by the protesters, held its first interaction with farmer organisations from eight states and said it had received “suggestions to improve implementation of the Acts”.

Committee members Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sanghatana and agricultural economists Parmod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati held discussions Thursday with 10 farmer organisations via video link to seek their views on the new laws that Punjab farmers want repealed.

In a statement after the meeting, the committee said 10 farmers organisations from 8 states — Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — participated in the discussions.

The farmer unions, it said, “gave their frank opinion including suggestions to improve the implementation of Acts”.

Opening the discussion, committee members requested farmer leaders to give their views “frankly” on the three agriculture laws — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Tasked by the Supreme Court to get the views of all stakeholders on the farm laws, the committee has to submit a report within two months.

It was constituted as a four-member committee on January 12 by the bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

But on January 14, hours before the panel was to hold its first virtual meeting, one of the members, Bhupinder Singh Mann, president of BKU (Mann) and chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee, recused himself.

Farmer unions protesting at the borders of Delhi, the majority from Punjab, refused to appear before the committee, saying its members were in favour of the farm laws.

On January 19, the committee said it would “try to convince” the protesting farmers while seeking views of other farmer organisations and the government.

On Wednesday, the bench of CJI Bobde took serious objection to “name calling” and “branding” of members of the committee. “How can you play with people’s reputation like this? We have serious objections to them being called biased and in saying that the court has an interest. You malign people according to majority opinion?… The Supreme Court appoints a committee and their reputation is torn to shreds,” CJI Bobde said, while hearing a petition by the Kisan Mahapanchayat which sought reconstitution of the committee.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court committee has created a website to seek feedback from stakeholders about the farm laws and legal guarantee for minimum support price.

The text of the laws as well as the Supreme Court judgment has been uploaded to it. It seeks feedback and suggestions in the form of questions like: “Are you aware about the implications of legalizing MSP?” and “Will you be affected with the provisions of the Act?”

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