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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Farm laws: Member of SC-appointed panel asks top court to make their report public

Anil Ghanwat, who is also the president of Shetkari Sanghatan, also asked the Supreme Court to consider directing the government to develop and implement an exemplary and robust policy process.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: November 24, 2021 1:30:45 am
Farmers celebrate after the repeal of the farm laws on November 20. (Express Photo/Amit Mehra)

On the eve of the meeting of the Union Cabinet which is expected to initiate the process for repeal of the three new agriculture laws, Anil Ghanwat, one of the members of the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the laws, urged the court Tuesday to release the panel’s report.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s announcement on repealing the laws, he asked the Supreme Court to consider directing the government to “develop and implement an exemplary, robust policy process” so that “a fiasco of this sort is not repeated” and “valuable time of the Court not wasted in the Government’s fruitless, unproductive endeavours”.

In a letter to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, Ghanwat, leader of the Shetkari Sanghatana, said: “On November 19, 2021, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s decision to repeal the farm laws. But it is important to ensure that while the specific laws may no longer exist, the reform impulse that was reflected in these laws is not diluted.”

“After the Government’s decision to repeal the farm laws in the coming Winter Session of Parliament, the Committee’s Report is no longer relevant with regard to those laws but there are suggestions in the Report on farmers’ issues that are of great public interest,” he said.

“The Report can also play an educational role and ease the misapprehensions of many farmers who have, in my opinion, been misguided by some leaders who do not seem to appreciate how a minimally regulated free market can allocate national resources to their most productive use,” he said.

“I hope, therefore, that you will consider releasing the Report as soon as practicable, or authorise the Committee or me to do so,” he said.

In the letter, Ghanwat said: “These laws were accepted in principle by our farmers’ movement, but were not accepted entirely by the farmers because the policy process of the Indian government is not consultative.”

“I request the Hon’ble Supreme Court to consider directing the Government to develop and implement an exemplary, robust policy process of the sort that is followed in developed nations. That will ensure that a fiasco of this sort is not repeated and that the valuable time of the Court not wasted in the Government’s fruitless, unproductive endeavours which also end up causing angst and frustration in the community. For instance, with the repeal of these laws, a large number or farmers are now even further frustrated with India’s lack of attention to their needs,” he said.

“A robust policy process for making new farm laws would involve establishing a Committee with representation of all views. The Committee would prepare a White Paper that considers costs and benefits of options, consults widely and recommends a way forward. The legislation resulting from such a process would be acceptable to India’s long-suffering farmers,” he said.

“I am also writing to apprise you that organisations that lodged submissions to the Farm Laws Committee have asked me about the contents of the Report,” he said.

Ghanwat also addressed a press conference and said the country should have policy in the interest of farmers. He criticised farm union leaders, who led the protest against the farm laws, for raising the MSP guarantee demand. He said the demand for guarantee of the minimum support price is not feasible.

“We should have a policy that is in the interest of farmers and does not distort the market.”

To a question on MSP, Ghanwat said: “We should look at the side effects of the MSP. The farmers of Punjab are only growing wheat and paddy, and the water table of Punjab has decreased… They have to diversify. Besides, there is another question, why only 23 crops? On that logic, every farmer should get MSP. Even farmers growing potatoes and onions should also get MSP.”

He said that in the next 2-3 months, he would travel across the country and over 1 lakh farmers would gather in support of reforms in the agriculture sector.

Ghanwat is one of the three members of the Supreme Court-appointed committee constituted on January 12 to deliberate on the farm laws.

Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, are the other two members. Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, had recused himself from the committee.

The committee submitted its report on March 19, but it has not yet been made public.

Ghanwat’s remarks came a day ahead of the meeting of the Union Cabinet which is expected to approve draft Bills to repeal the three farm laws­ — Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Once cleared by the Cabinet, the repeal Bills will be introduced in Parliament during the winter session starting November 29.

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