The first meeting of the panel constituted by the Supreme Court to deliberate on the controversial farm acts was held today with the members urging the protesting farmers to come forward and share their views on the acts.
“The biggest challenge for the panel is to convince agitating farmers to come and speak with us. 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 side. We are from the Supreme Court side,” Anil Ghanwat, a key member of the panel said.
Eminent agriculture economist, Ashok Gulati and former Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Pramod Kumar Joshi, are the other 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 first meeting here, Ghanwat said the first round of consultations with farmers and other stakeholders has been scheduled for Thursday.
The Supreme Court had set up the four-member panel on January 11.
Separately also, nine rounds of talks have taken place between the government and agitating unions without any concrete resolution so
Ghanwat, who is the president of the Shetkari Sanghatana, said the panel will seek views of farmers and all other stakeholders on the new farm laws, besides the central and state governments.
Meanwhile, Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi in a scathing attack on the Centre’s agriculture acts today said that the new laws are designed to “destroy” the country’s agriculture sector and the only solution to the farmers’ issue is to repeal the legislations.
At a press conference, Gandhi also released a booklet highlighting the “plight” of farmers in the wake of the Centre’s three farm laws. He alleged that the laws will 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,” he said.
In a separate development, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said that any policy designed for the agriculture sector should have farmers’ welfare as its guiding principle. Naidu was delivering the inaugural address at a three-day national dialogue on Indian Agriculture in 2030 organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and NITI Aayog today.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at several border points of Delhi since November 28 last year, demanding a repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) 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” (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.