The Supreme Court stays the three controversial farm laws and forms a four member committee to take over negotiations with the farmers and "solve the problem". It turns out that all four of these committee members have spoken or written in support of the farm laws and this has made many people question the impartiality of the committee. Ashok Gulati, for instance, has hailed the farm laws and even compared them to the 1991 economic reforms. According to him, the laws are an important step towards getting "agri markets right".
The Congress on Tuesday questioned the impartiality of the members of a Supreme Court-appointed panel and reiterated that the three new central farm laws be instead withdrawn and direct talks by the Prime Minister with protesters.
The Chief Justice had mentioned the names of agricultural experts Ashok Gulati, Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, Anil Dhanawat and BS Mann as committee members to hear out the farmers’ views on the new laws and help end the impasse. Except for Mann, the other three have allegedly supported the farm laws in the recent past.
“These panel members selected by the Supreme Court have openly expressed views against the withdrawal of these farm laws. It will be tough for farmers to repose faith in the committee, wherein a majority of members have views different from theirs on the issue,” Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill remarked.
Shergill also demanded the resignation of Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar for what he called “total incompetence, irrational and irresponsible behaviour of the BJP-led central government”, due to which the higher judiciary had to step in.
“The stay order on the farm laws is a tight legal slap on the BJP’s dictatorial law- making and imposing mechanism,” he said.
Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala demanded that the three “black” laws be repealed. “From day one, Ministers have branded protesting farmers as anti-national and often Khalistanis; farmers are still being subjected to abuse by the BJP,” Surjewala alleged.
The Congress reiterated its support to farmers on their demands, asserting that anybody opposed to farmers was not a party member. “The Congress will not sit back till the laws are not taken back,” he added.
After the farmers’ unions made it clear that they will not accept anything but the withdrawal of the farm laws, the Congress has stepped its attack on the Modi-led government.
Rahul Gandhi in a tweet on Tuesday said, “The government’s efforts to confuse farmers is futile, the farmers know the motive and their demands are clear — withdraw anti-Agri laws.”
The farmers, after the Supreme Court indicated to form a committee, said on Monday that they will not appear before it. Another Congress leader Kapil Sibal in an article, which he shared with the media said, “The protesting farmers want to be heard. For years, governments have neglected the agricultural sector, failing to recognise the abysmal conditions under which a majority of our farmers work. The ongoing protests must be understood in the backdrop of the levels of poverty they face.”
The Congress after lending support to the farmers’ protest have now come to the forefront. Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi has spoken to the opposition leaders for a joint strategy on the farmers’ agitation.
The Congress on Saturday had said that it has decided to organise ‘Kisan Adhikar Divas’ in the country and will gherao the Raj Bhavans across all states on January 15.
Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala on Saturday had said: “Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has decided that in support of the agitating farmers, the party will organise Kisan Adhikar Divas in its party offices and will also gherao the Raj Bhawans in the state headquarters on January 15.”
Political and farmer leaders in Maharashtra have welcomed the Supreme Court verdict staying the three farm laws, but many have raised doubts over the expert committee suggested by the top court to examine the farmers’ concerns.
The ruling Shiv Sena’s farmer leader Kishore Tiwari supported the stay on the implementation of the three farm laws but slammed the appointment of the committee which will look into the farmers’ issues.
“The expert committee members appointed by the Chief Justice of India are puppets of the WTO and BJP who are notorious as blind advocates of market-economy and globalisation. Hence, CJI S.A. Bobde is working for the Prime Minister’s Office. It’s a hoax and betrayal of the agrarian community,” Tiwari said.
The president of Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission who has been accorded the status of Minister of State, Tiwari said that the farmers’ original demand of repealing the three laws has not changed and they will continue to agitate.
Nevertheless, the VNSSM head expressed cautious optimism that since “the CJI knows the issues of the farmers, he may show the mirror” to the BJP government and safeguard the interests of the peasantry.
Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar said that it was a welcome decision by the apex court to put on hold the implementation of the three farm laws and set up a four-member panel to resolve the issues.
“It’s a big relief for the farmers and I hope that a concrete dialogue between the Central government and the farmers will be initiated now, keeping the farmers’ interests and wellbeing in mind,” Pawar said.
NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik said that a ray of hope could be seen following the SC move to give justice to the farmers, but the Centre must drop its adamant attitude in the matter.
“It’s still not too late. The Centre should forthwith repeal the three farm laws and immediately start the framework for enacting new laws if it deems fit, but after consulting the farmers and the Opposition parties on all the issues and concerns raised by the farmers at the earliest,” Malik said.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti said that on Monday, when the SC had pulled up the government, there was an impression that finally the farmers’ grievances may be redressed amicably.
“However, today it has turned out to be a fraud and a pre-written script. The CJI has stayed the three farm laws which the farmers never asked, and has not said anything on MSP. Plus, the committee is of people who are openly supporting the three laws, so how will the farmers’ issues be resolved,” Shetti asked.
He said the farmers have not changed their stance on total repeal of the three farm laws, but without consulting them, the SC has stayed the implementation of the farm laws and even appointed a committee of those favouring the government, which would try to bulldoze the farmers later.
The Maharashtra Congress has reiterated its national stand that instead of confusing and misguiding the agitating farmer leaders in different directions, the government must accept their main demand to withdraw the three farm laws. (IANS)