Months before the Centre repealed the three controversial farm laws, a Supreme Court-appointed committee had recommended against their withdrawal, underlining that a “majority” farm unions support them and “a repeal or a long suspension” would be “unfair to this silent majority”. The committee’s report was made public on Monday for the first time since it was submitted to the apex court a year ago.
The 92-page report was released by Anil Ghanwat, one of the three members of the committee, at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Two other members of the committee, agricultural economists Ashok Gulati and Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, were not present on the occasion.
Citing the feedback received by the committee, the report states, “The bilateral interactions of the committee with the stakeholders demonstrated that only 13.3 per cent of the stakeholders were not in favour of the three farm laws. Around 85.7 per cent of the farmer organisations representing around 3.3-crore farmers supported the laws.”
“The feedback received by the committee through its online portal established that one-third of the respondents did not support the farm laws and around two-thirds were in their favour. The feedback received through e-mails also shows that a majority supported the farm laws. In view of this feedback, the committee recommends that a repeal or a long suspension would, therefore, be unfair to this ‘silent’ supporters,” said the report.
According to the report, the committee extended an invitation to 266 farmer organisations, including the protesting farm unions. However, the protesting farm organisations did not meet the committee. The report shows that out of 266 farm bodies invited, the committee “interacted directly” with 73 farmer bodies representing 3.83-crore farmers, of which 61 farmer organisations representing 3.3 crore farmers (85.7 per cent) “fully supported” the Acts. According to various official estimates, the number of farmers in India is in the range of 9 crore to 15 crore.
Besides, the committee invited comments on a detailed questionnaire on three farm laws on its portal, and it received 19,027 responses. The committee had also recommended “revisiting” of the MSP policy and discontinuation of open-ended procurement, citing bulging central pool stocks.
The committee had recommended to make the MSP the prerogative of the states, providing for a legal backing for such procurements at their own costs as the recent Punjab Amendment Act does, the report said. The committee felt that instead of a blanket procurement of wheat and paddy, the FCI should instead put a cap on procurement.
The committee also deliberated upon to allocate the Centre’s expenditure on procurement, storage and PDS of wheat and rice across states, the report said. The committee also recommended gradual diversification from paddy to more sustainable high-value crops, especially in the Punjab-Haryana belt.