On Monday, Anil Ghanwat, part of the three-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court to study the now-repealed farm laws, decided to make its report public. In a conversation with Partha Sarathi Biswas of The Indian Express, Ghanwat, who is a member of the Shetkari Sanghtana, said he took the step as the court had failed to act on the report. Excerpts from a conversation:
Q. Why did you decide to make the report public? What were the opinions of other two members – economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Joshi – of the committee?
Exactly a year ago, our committee had submitted the report in a sealed envelope to the Supreme Court. This was within two months of the committee being formed to study and engage with farmers and farm unions about the laws. As a farmer and farm leader myself, the report was important to me as it contained many points which could allow the Indian agricultural sector take the next step. Also, during our extensive interaction with farm unions, we could see the silent majority of the farmers were in favour of the three laws. But somehow, their voice could not reach all. I had written thrice to the Chief Justice of India requesting him to make the report public. Once the Central government decided to rescind the laws, our report also did not have any standing. My only concern was that the general public should know about the deliberations we had and what our suggestions were.
As for the other members, they are economists and academicians and said that their work as committee members was to collate information and analyse the same. Once that is done, they felt they have finished their mandate and did not want to do anything about it. As a farmer leader and farmer myself I felt my mandate was more than just being part of the committee and through making the report public, I want to start a public discussion about this.
Q. Of the 266 farm unions, only 73 appeared before you. Why did the other unions not appear before the committee? Given the relatively small number of organisations, can this report truly represent the farmers of the country?
We had extended invitation to all the farm organisations asking them to register their views about the three laws. However, many of the organisations who were leaders and members of Samyuta Kisan Morcha refused to appear before the committee. If they had appeared, we would have recorded their statements also. Their refusal to appear was duly noted in our report. However, those who appeared should get their voice heard.
Q. Do you think this report would be taken seriously in the corridors of power? What do you feel should be the next logical step after the report?
The government will certainly not take this report seriously as the farm laws are now a closed book for them. What we feel is that our report should start the process of discussions on formation of an Agriculture Policy. Our report had gone into great details into issues like land usage, labour usage, access to technology and other important fields related to the agriculture sector. India is supposed to be an agri-based country yet we do not have an Agricultural Policy. What we hope is that this would be the first step towards this.
The report has gone into great details about the Public Distribution System and the way the Food Corporation of India works. In fact, we have suggested methods to revolutionise the work by both these government bodies. Our party, the Swatantra Bharat Paksha, will surely implement these changes once we get into power. Else, we will support any party, which promises to implement the same. Our fight would start now to get these suggestions implemented.
Q. What do you make of the government’s response to this report?
As a farmer, I felt insulted that the report gathered dust for over a year. We had put in serious efforts to compile the report during the challenging Covid-19 times. More than that, this report was supposed to provide a guide map for the agricultural sector, which was neglected.