Farmer leader opts out of SC panel on agri laws; next talks on Friday

Farmers stage a protest against the three farm laws at Tikri border, in New Delhi, on Thursday | Photo: PTI
Days after being appointed by the Supreme Court as part of a four-member committee to resolve the deadlock between protesting farmers and the Central government, Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann has recused himself from the panel on the grounds that he will not compromise with the interest of farmers and Punjab.

The protesting farmers and the Centre are set to hold their 9th round of negotiations at 12 pm on Friday.

Mann said he is ready to sacrifice any position to prevent farmers' interest from being compromised as farmer unions and political parties have raised doubts over the composition of the panel.

“This is moral victory for the protesting farmers and we invite him to join the protest,” Rakesh Tikait, leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union, said.

Yogendra Yadav, founder of Jai Kisan Andolan which is one of groups participating in the protest, meanwhile, also called upon eminent agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, another member of the four-member panel, to tender his resignation. “We can agree to disagree. But, I hope he (Gulati) would agree that he cannot be an umpire in a match where he has taken part as a player,” Yadav said in a tweet.

The Supreme Court had on Tuesday stayed the implementation of the three new farm laws till further orders and announced the formation of a committee to hear the grievances of the farmers and the opinion of the government.

Apart from Mann and Gulati, Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat, and International Food Policy Research Institute's Pramod Kumar Joshi are the other two members of the panel. 

Mann's announcement  came on a day when his organisation's state unit decided to disassociate itself from him.

“We decided to disassociate ourselves from Mann as he did not consult with us to work as a committee member,” said BKU (Punjab) President Baldev Singh Mianpur.

Sources close to Mann said he was facing threats and intimidation from various quarters ever since his name came as part of the panel, though there has not been any independent confirmation of the same.

Meanwhile, Mianpur claimed that Mann might have decided to change his stand after he got a whiff of their meeting.

Mann, 81, is also a chairman of the All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee, which has been in favour of agriculture reforms.

He was a Rajya Sabha MP from 1990-96. He had supported the Congress in 2012 and 2017 Punjab assembly polls.

Farmers who have been camping at the Delhi borders for several weeks are demanding a repeal of the farm laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price for crops. 

Former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, also said that truly independent persons should have been appointed on the committee formed by the Supreme Court to resolve the impasse over new farm laws.

Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi also said that sooner or later, the Centre will take back the laws and it will be big victory for the farmers.

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