In a statement issued on December 14, the Agriculture Ministry had said Mann-led AIKCC members submitted a memorandum to it in favour of the farm acts. File photo PTI

SC panel members known to advocate farm laws, say agitating farmers

The four members of a committee formed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday (January 12)to resolve the deadlock over farmers agitation against three farm laws -- two experts and two farmer leaders -- have been known as pro-reforms in the agriculture space, while Congress party and agitating unions flagged their direct support for the contentious Acts as well in the recent past

The four members of the committee formed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday (January 12) to resolve the deadlock over farmers agitation against the three farm laws have been known to be pro-reforms in agriculture. Two members of the committee are experts, while two others are farmer leaders.

The Supreme Court announced the panel while staying till further orders the implementation of the three farm laws enacted in September last year. Bhupinder Singh Mann, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sangthana, Maharashtra; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati have been named in the panel.

However, agitating farmer unions said they want a complete repeal of the laws and they do not want to appear before any committee. “These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated them,” a statement issued by All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said.

Addressing a press conference, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party welcomes the Supreme Court’s concern over the farm laws, but the party has issues with the composition of the committee.

He said the members of the committee have already expressed their views in the past favouring the new laws. “So the question arises in our minds how justice will be done to farmers by their hands,” he said.

“All the members of the committee constituted by the Supreme Court have already supported the agricultural bill,” Congress party’s Madhya Pradesh unit tweeted while tagging newspaper articles written by Gulati and Joshi and also news reports quoting Ghanwat and Mann speaking against the repeal of the laws.

Ghanwat said on Tuesday the new farm laws partially implement what his outfit has been demanding for decades. His attempt will be to improve them, he said, while coming out in support of reforms, including permission for contract farming.

“We are not lauding the Centre’s three acts that are described as giving freedom to farmers. It was the Shetkari Sanghatana headed by late Sharad Joshi which had pressed for these changes first,” Ghanwat, whose organisation has been accused of backing the Centre despite representing farmers, said. “Now the current government has tried to implement them to some extent. My role in the committee will be to protect the interest of farmers and improve these laws,” he said.

Sharad Joshi, an economist who had worked with the World Bank, founded the Shetkari Sanghatna in the late 1970s. Among other things he wanted freedom for farmers from restrictions on sale and export of produce. The other three members of the panel — Gulati, Mann and Joshi — could not be reached for comments with some of them having switched off their phones.

Gulati is an eminent agriculture scientist who received the Padma Shri award in 2015 for his contribution in the field. He was the youngest member of the Economic Advisory Council of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the first NDA regime. He is currently Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

Also read: Amid superspreader fears, farmers say new laws more perilous than COVID

Gulati was also chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) during 2011-14 period. Before becoming the chairman of the CACP,  which advises the government on fixing the minimum support price (MSP), he was a director at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for more than 10 years (2001-11).

At present, Gulati is on the central board of directors of the RBI, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and commodity exchange NCDEX. He has written 15 books on Indian and Asian agriculture, besides several research papers.

Pramod Kumar Joshi is the director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), New Delhi. Earlier, he had held the positions of director of the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad, as well as the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi.

Previously, Joshi was south Asia coordinator at the International Food Policy Research Institute and senior economist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Patancheru.

Also read: Won’t go before SC committee, it is just a divide-and-rule tactic, say farmers

Farmer leader Bhupinder Singh Mann is the national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is part of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee. He was Rajya Sabha member from 1990-96.

In a statement issued on December 14, the agriculture ministry had said the Mann-led AIKCC members had submitted a memorandum to it in favour of the farm acts. However, some eminent agriculture economists welcomed the court’s decision to stay the implementation of the laws and set up the committee.

Former Union minister and economist Y K Alagh said he thinks it (the SC’s decision) is very sensible. “Because they (the SC judges) have said that you (the Centre) must do adequate preparation because the new farm laws were passed in a big hurry,” Alagh told PTI.

Another eminent economist and former Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen said, “I think it is good. It (the SC) has stayed it (the Centre’s new farm laws).”

Mahendra Dev S, professor of economics at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), said, “That’s a good suggestion (the staying of new farm was by the SC).”

Read More
Next Story