New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s efforts to end the stalemate between the protesting farmers and the Central government ran into a stumbling block, as one of the members of the committee it had appointed to hold talks recused himself on Thursday, citing ‘apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general’.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, one of the four members appointed by the Supreme Court to the committee, offered to step down “so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country”.
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday ‘suspended‘ the implementation of the three contentious farm laws and constituted a committee comprised of agricultural economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Kumar Joshi, Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sangathan and Mann, who is a leader of one of the factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
With all four of the members having publicly taken a stance in favour of the Centre’s laws in the past, the farmer unions said they would not depose before a panel that has only proponents of the government’s view.
On Thursday, the 81-year-old Mann said that he was thankful to the Supreme Court for nominating him to the panel, but added, “As a farmer myself and a Union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions among the farm unions and the public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country, I am refusing myself from the Committee and I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab.”
S. Bhupinder Singh Mann Ex MP and National President of BKU and Chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee has recused himself from the 4 member committee constituted by Hon’ble Supreme Court pic.twitter.com/pHZhKXcVdT
— Bhartiya Kisan Union (@BKU_KisanUnion) January 14, 2021
It is yet unclear how Mann’s recusal will affect the committee’s functioning. On Tuesday, the top court had said the committee must have its first sitting within ten days, and submit a report with its recommendations within two months of the first sitting. It had listed the matter for hearing again in eight weeks.
As The Wire has reported, Mann, a former Rajya Sabha MP, chairs the newly-formed All India Kisan Coordination Committee that supports the farm legislations. In December, Mann met agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar to submit a memorandum demanding that the three laws should be implemented. The farm union leader has supported the Congress and Amarinder Singh in the past.
Speaking to the Indian Express, several leaders of the union which are opposing the laws criticised Mann for his pro-free market stance. Jhanda Singh Jethuke, senior vice-president of BKU Ugrahan, said, “Bhupinder Mann’s union hardly has any base in Punjab now. He supported Congress in three elections in Punjab, became a Rajya Sabha member. So the one who gets political benefits, can’t be termed as a farmer leader.”