Mohali: On the day the agitating farmers’ unions, under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), said no to the Central government’s proposal of suspending the controversial agri-marketing laws for 18-months in a bid to put an end to the two-month-long protest at five border points around New Delhi, the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter held its first meeting.
It met with ten farmers’ unions, none of whom are part of the SKM, and said that it has received “suggestions to improve implementation of the Acts”. A press note released by the committee noted that the farmers’ unions present in the meeting “gave their frank opinion” on the laws.
The four-member committee was appointed by the SC on January 12 after it suspended the implementation of the three farm laws. The court in its order said that the committee should submit its recommendations to the court within two months from the date of its first sitting.
Hours before the committee was to meet for its first virtual meeting on January 14, one of the members – Bhupinder Singh Mann, offered to step down “so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country.”
With only three members, the committee continued its work. According to a press release issued by Promod Joshi, Ashok Gulati and Anil Ghanwat, the committee met with farmers’ organisations from Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, in the first meeting of this committee, no farmer union from Punjab or Haryana was present.
The more than 40 farmers’ groups which have been protesting against the laws near Delhi have refused to appear before the committee because they believe all the committee’s members are ‘biased’ and are in favour of the laws.
A petition was also filed by the Kisan Mahapanchayat in the SC asking for the reconstitution of the committee. Hearing the petition, the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde objected to the questioning of an SC-appointed committee’s intentions. He had said, “How can you play with people’s reputation like this? We have serious objections to them being called biased and in saying that the court has an interest. You malign people according to majority opinion?… The Supreme Court appoints a committee and their reputation is torn to shreds.”
Meanwhile, agitating farmers’ unions are meeting the government for the 11th round of talks on Friday. They are firm on their stand to not appear before the SC-appointed committee.