A member of the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the three farm laws that triggered farmer protests last year has urged the Chief Justice of India to release the panel’s report in the public domain and forward it to the Centre.
Shetkari Sanghatana president Anil J Ghanwat, in a letter dated September 1 to the CJI, said the committee’s report “has addressed all apprehensions of the farmers” and its “recommendations will pave the way to resolve the ongoing farmers’ agitation”.
“As a member of the Committee, especially representing the farmers’ community, I am pained that the issue raised by the farmers aren’t yet resolved and the agitation is continuing. I feel that the report has not been given any attention by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” his letter stated.
“I am humbly pleading to the Hon’ble Supreme Court to kindly release the report for implementation of its recommendations for peaceful resolution of the stalemate to the farmers’ satisfaction at the earliest,” he said.
Recalling that the Supreme Court “suspended the implementation of three farm laws and constituted a Committee to report on these laws” on January 12 this year, Ghanwat said the committee was given two months to submit its report.
“The Committee, after consulting a large number of farmers and several stakeholders, submitted its report before the stipulated time on 19th March 2021. The Committee incorporated the opinions and suggestions of all the stakeholders with the aim of maximum benefits to the farmers,” he stated in the letter.
Speaking to The Indian Express Tuesday, Ghanwat said: “I literally wish from my heart that the agitation should stop… This is an issue which affects the country’s economy and law and order. Therefore, the Supreme Court should hear this matter as soon as possible, so that the issue can be debated and both sides can argue.”
“Farmers have been protesting against the laws for the last nine months. It has been five months since we submitted the report. Yet no action has been taken to make it public. Our consultations were exhaustive and we feel once this report is made public, the next course of action will be taken,” he said.
“Jo kuch bhi desh ke liye sahi hoga, Supreme Court ko lagega, woh order ho jaaye ya government jo kadam lena chahe le, lekin aise thande bakse mein daalkar kya nikalne wala hai… dard hota hai aise kisano ko baarish mein bheegte dekhte huai. Isliye humne aagrah kiya hai. Aise hi raha toh kai saal guzar sakte hai (Supreme Court should order whatever it thinks is right for the country, or the government should take whatever step it wants to take. There is no point in keeping it (the report) in cold storage. It is painful to see the farmers getting wet in the rain. That’s why the request. If it remains like this, many years can pass),” he said.
Farmers have been agitating on the borders of Delhi since November 26 last year, seeking the repeal of the 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.
In January this year, the Supreme Court constituted the committee, saying talks between the farmer organisations and the Centre have “not yielded any result so far” and “we are of the view that the constitution of a committee of experts in the field of agriculture to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and the Government of India may create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers”.
Apart from Ghanwat, the other members of the committee are Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; and Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union, had also been named as a member of the committee but he recused himself.
Reached for comment on Ghanwat’s letter, Gulati said it is the prerogative of the Supreme Court on when to make the report public.
“The Committee was set up by the Hon’ble SC. We submitted our report within the time given to us and to the best of our ability, keeping the interest of the farmers as the foremost concern in our minds,” he said.
“It is up to the Hon’ble bench of the SC to see how they want to make use of it, how and when they want to share it with the farmers and the Government. Making it public is their prerogative. I leave this issue to their best judgment,” Gulati said.
“Having said this, I do respect and support the feelings of Shri Anil Ghanwat, farmers’ representative in the committee,” he said.
Dr P K Joshi did not respond to a text message seeking his comments.
Asked if the lathicharge on farmers in Karnal in Haryana made him write the letter, Ghanwat said no. “The majority farmers have not read the laws, but are egged on by leaders,” he said. He replied in the affirmative to a query on whether he had consulted Gulati and Joshi before writing the letter. “They are professional people, so they have not taken any step on making the report public,” he said.
During its two-month tenure, the committee held around two dozen meetings with different stakeholders including representatives of the farmers’ unions and farmers’ producers organisations, private markets and state agriculture marketing boards, industry bodies, state governments, professionals and academicians, government officials, and procurement agencies. But the farmers sitting on protest did not appear before the committee.