Farmers' protest: Repealing laws not good for future reforms, says SC panel

After their first meeting here, Ghanwat said the first round of consultations with farmers and other stakeholders has been scheduled for Thursday. (PTI Photo)
The members of a panel set up by the Supreme Court to resolve the crisis of farmer protests said on Tuesday they would keep aside their ideology and views while consulting stakeholders, even as they indicated a complete repeal won't augur well for much-needed agriculture reforms.

The panel met for the first time on Tuesday. The biggest challenge, the members said, is to convince the agitating farmers to come and speak with them. “We will try our best. We also want to request those farmers who don’t want to come before us that we are neither from any party nor from the government’s side. We are from the Supreme Court’s side,” said Anil Ghanwat, a member of the panel.

Agriculture economist Ashok Gulati and former director of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Pramod Kumar Joshi, are the remaining members of the panel.

A fourth member, Bhupinder Singh Mann, recused himself few days back after questions were raised by the protesting farmer unions about the views expressed by all members in the past in support of the contentious laws, against which thousands are protesting on Delhi borders for almost two months now.

After their meeting, Ghanwat said the first round of consultations with farmers and other stakeholders had been scheduled for Thursday.  Nine rounds of talks have taken place between the government and agitating unions without any concrete resolution so far. 

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the new laws were designed to “destroy” the country’s agriculture sector and the only solution to the farmers’ issue is to repeal the legislation.

At a press conference, Gandhi released a booklet highlighting the “plight” of farmers in the wake of the three farm laws. He alleged the laws would put the entire agriculture sector in the hands of “three to four crony capitalists”.  “I support the protesting farmers 100 per cent and every single person in the country should support them as they are fighting for us.”

The BJP hit back at Gandhi over his attack on the farm laws accusing the Congress of working to scuttle the ongoing talks between the Centre and farmer unions.

In a separate development, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said any policy designed for the agriculture sector should have farmers’ welfare as its guiding principle. He stressed on making Indian agriculture profitable by reducing input costs and providing uninterrupted power as well as credit at low interest rates to the farming community.

“As farmers are unorganised and voiceless, the four Ps — Parliament, political leaders, policymakers and press — must proactively adopt a positive bias towards agriculture. In fact, a radical shift in making agriculture profitable is the need of the hour,” Naidu said.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at several border points of Delhi since November 28, demanding a repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price system for their crops.

Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

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