India’s top court has muscled in for what is being seen as an attempt to break the impasse between the farmers’ unions and government in the on-going massive protests against three controversial farm laws ramped through the Parliament four months ago.
In a move today, the Supreme Court (SC) has put on hold the implementation of three laws, deemed by some quarters as a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.
Others, however, are suspicious with the judiciary, suspecting that it could be to break the momentum gained by the protesting farmers who are present on major highway entry points to Delhi for nearly two months now.
A three-judge bench headed by India’s chief justice Sharad A Bobde also announced the formation of a panel to facilitate talks with the protesting farmers staging. They will resume hearing on the issue on Monday.
“We are looking to solve the problem. If you want to agitate indefinitely, you can. Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the Committee. The Committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us. We are going to take the opinion of the organisations. We are forming the Committee so that we have a clearer picture,” the CJI said, as quoted by media reports.
The order, an attempt to find a way out of the stalemate between the government and protesters, comes a day after the Chief Justice Bobde said the court was “extremely disappointed at the way the government has handled all this”, reports Bloomberg. Several rounds of talks with leaders representing farmers have failed even as over 60 farmers are reported to have lost their lives braving cold weather.
The court refused to give more time to the government to find a solution and said the panel will hold discussion with both the parties. It will submit a report to the court, the bench said without specifying a deadline.
The government maintains that the farmers are being misled and the new laws that lift curbs on who can purchase agricultural produce will remove middlemen and increase farmers income. Modi had in his first term promised to double farmers’ incomes by 2022, the report added.
Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of around 40 protesting farmer unions, has welcome the SC move but reiterated that they would stay the course of the protest until the legislations are repealed.
“It was an eye wash and farmers unions were right in distancing themselves from it. About 4 members, the less we say better it is. All are government lackeys,” said Amaan Singh Bali, an activist who has been providing running updates via Twitter on the protests.
The four persons named to the SC-appointed committee are Bharatiya Kisan Union national president Bhupinder Singh Mann, Pramod Kumar Joshi (Director South Asia international Food Policy), agricultural economist Ashok Gulati and Shetkari Sanghatana leader Anil Ghanwat.
The three laws under discussion are the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
BJP’s farming policies: Deepening India’s agrobusiness capitalism and centralisation (Asia Samachar, 18 Oct 2020)
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