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SC Stays 3 Farm Laws: What The 4-Member Expert Panel Will Do?

Now, there is a high level of curiosity among countrymen on whether the new Farm laws will be shown the green or red card by the panel of 4-referees. Time to take a detailed look at the possible outcome

Bhubaneswar: With the country’s Apex court putting a stay on the three new Farm laws enacted by the Modi government and appointing an expert committee to look into the whole gamut of the new Farm laws, the glare has shifted to the future of the Modi government’s ‘revolutionary’ reforms in the farm sector.

While the first sitting of the committee will be held within 10-days from today, the expert panel will have to submit a report to the Apex court within 2-months from the date of the first sitting, the SC Order states.

Before passing the historic order, where the 3-judge bench headed by CJI S A Bobde appointed a 4-member expert group comprising eminent agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, a pioneer in agricultural research Dr Pramod Joshi, noted farmer leaders Bhupinder Singh Mann (National President of Bharatiya Kisan Union) and Anil Ghanwat (President of Shetkari Sanghatana), the courtroom witnessed some epochal moments.

Here Are Few Samples

CJI Bobde made a significant observation during the proceedings of the case.

“We are willing to suspend the law but not indefinitely. We want you to submit before the committee. We don’t want negative inputs like ML Sharma,” observed CJI Bobde while making a reference at the advocate of the protesting farmers.

Representing several farmer unions, senior counsel AP Singh told the bench that Kisan Unions want the president of different unions to be there in the committee.

“They don’t want to come before the committee because it’s an issue with the government. Farmers organizations need to be taken into confidence,” said Singh.

CJI’s Reply: We are recording your statement that your unions will NOT present themselves before the committee.

CJI’s Big statement: We are not aiming to adhere to everyone’s wishes of a committee. We will form the ideal committee.

THE IDEAL COMMITTEE

In CJI SA Bobde’s words, the country’s Apex court has set up an ‘ideal committee’ to understand the ‘ground situation’. The profile of the committee members is as follows.

Ashok Gulati: At present Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), New Delhi, Gulati was also the chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Agriculture Prices (2011-14) that announce MSP for farmers. It is he who recommended a hefty increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of rice, wheat, pulses and oilseeds, to expand their cultivation and lessen import.

However, Gulati was the man who in 2013-14 made a zero-rise recommendation in the wheat MSP due to bulging stocks, though the Cabinet then overruled it.

The President of India honoured him with Padma Shri in 2015. Gulati is well known as an expert in agriculture, food security, agri-trade, crop insurance, subsidies, sustainability and poverty alleviation.

Dr Pramod Joshi:  An agriculture researcher, he held important positions like director of National Academy of Agriculture Sciences, south Asia director of International Food Policy Research Institute etc.

Bhupinder Singh Mann: A former Rajya Sabha MP (1990), he is the president of Bharatiya Kisan Union and chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC).

His forte: In 1995, during his tenure as Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and as the nominee of President of India for farmers’ movement, he led an agitation against the zonal restrictions levied by the governments to suppress the agriculture costs. Mann agitated against the government to allow free movement of wheat.

Anil Ghanwat: He is the president of Shetkari Sanghtan, a popular pro-farmer organisation in Maharashtra that was founded by popular farm leader Sharad Joshi. The agitation by the organisation in 1984 ended the monopoly of Maharashtra State Cooperative Cotton Marketing Federation on procurement of cotton.

NEW FARM LAWS: Will Return or Be Repealed?

The million-dollar question on everyone’s lips is will the Farm laws face a burial or rise like a phoenix?

The current agitation on the new Farm laws has the following contentions:

  • Farmers will not avail MSP benefit
  • APMCs Supremacy need to be maintained
  • No contract farming as Corporates may usurp the land of farmers

Therefore, farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, launched their protest and had virtually lay seize to the national capital Delhi.

Modi Govt’s Affidavit In SC

Before the bench, the Centre has made it quite clear that the MSP system will never be dismantled. Moreover, with regard to the takeover of farmland by corporates, the SG Tushar Mehta presented a very categorical statement.

“Section 8 says no farming agreement shall be entered into mortgage, sale land. That’s why farmers should not fear loss of land while agreement is only for the crop. There is a dispute resolution mechanism too.”

WHAT WILL BE COMMITTEE’S LIKELY OUTCOME?

There is a high order of curiosity among the countrymen on whether the new laws be shown a green or red card by the panel of 4-referees.

Here are the clues.

Ashok Gulati: Professor at ICRIER. As per ICRIER study, over the period 2000-01 to 2016-17, Indian agriculture was implicitly taxed to the tune of almost 14 per cent of its value. This was primarily due to restrictive trade and marketing policies, ranging from export controls and stocking limits to the restrictive mandi system. The way to improve farmers’ price realisation, therefore, was to liberate agriculture from these various controls, opined Gulati.

Bhupinder Mann: In a letter to PM Modi, he had hailed the new Farm laws. He wrote, “When I heard the preliminary news that your Government is doing away with these draconian laws, I was very thrilled and happy. I had thought of presenting you with a badge of BKU for taking these bold steps.”

He continued and then wrote that “on reading the finer print, the excitement was fizzled out quickly. Because it has created a panic among farmers that the Government is doing away with the MSP and farmers will be thrown before private purchasers.”

Therefore, he suggested, “Your government should bring necessary laws to guarantee that farmers will get the MSP. This assured purchase on MSP should be legally binding on all buyers, government or private, with strong penal action on defaulting buyers. Also, the 9th Schedule should be amended and agriculture/land should be brought out of its ambit to enable farmers to approach the courts for justice.”

At the same time, he suggested for the complete abolition of the Essential Commodities Act Amendment.

Anil Ghanwat: As a president of Shetkari Sanghtana, he and his team had recently met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in support of the new Farm laws. Eminent farm leader Sharad Joshi had formed the Shetkari Sanghatan in Maharashtra.

The Sanghatana is for farmers’ access to the markets, because, founder Joshi believed that the root cause of farmers’ problems lay in their limited access to the market. Therefore, markets should be open and competitive to allow price realisation for farm produce. He is critical of all governments for what he called deflating of prices of farm produces intentionally to ensure consumers get them cheap food and politicians vote.

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