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'We won't discuss any issue with this committee'

January 12, 2021 19:08 IST

'This four-member committee cannot supersede the four-five member ministerial committees, 25 top-level government bureaucrats, with whom we have had nine rounds of discussions each of which lasted for more than six-seven hours'

IMAGE: Farmers' leaders address a press conference against the new farm laws. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo

The Supreme Court-appointed panel of four members to resolve the stalemate between the Narendra Damodardas Modi government and the farmers' demand for the repeal of the three controversial farm laws seems headed for a failure right from the word go as important constituents of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha say they "reject the formation and concept of such committee formation outright."

The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation representing more than 40 farmers' unions, is spearheading the farmers' agitation for the repeal of the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, commonly referred to as 'the three farm laws'.

Madhya Pradesh's Shiv Kumar Kakka, national president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, a constituent of the SKM, told Prasanna D Zore/ over the phone that the SKM will soon hold a meeting to decide whether they will speak with the members of the Supreme Court-constituted four-member panel or if they will boycott it.

"This committee is not made by the Supreme Court; the government has proposed the names of these committee members," Kakka said.

"This four-member committee cannot supersede the four-five member ministerial committees, 25 top-level government bureaucrats, with whom we have had nine rounds of discussions each of which lasted for more than six-seven hours," he added.

The four members of the committee set up by the Supreme Court are Bharatiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann; Anil Ghanwat, Maharashtra president of the Shetkari Sangatana; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; agriculture economist Ashok Gulati.

"The committee has been announced by the Supreme Court to give it a report on the views of farmers. The Supreme Court wants a view and we have nothing to say about that. The view of the farmers is there with the government. We have been reiterating our demand for repeal of the three farm laws right since our very first meeting and we have not changed our stand at all," said Dr Ashish Mittal, a senior member of the working group of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee and general secretary of the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha from Uttar Pradesh.

"These committee members don't have to go too far because they will find all the farmers in Delhi," said Dr Mittal, when asked if the SKM will meet with the four-panel members.

"Let them come, meet farmers from different parts of India, do their surveys and report the findings to the Supreme Court; Our fight is with the government. Repeal the three laws and guarantee MSP for farmers' produce," he added.

"We had expected the government to put all the facts on the table before the Supreme Court. We had not approached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has said that it has formed this committee to find out for itself the views of the farmers. What are we to say about this? The Supreme Court is supreme. We have the highest regard for the Supreme Court," Dr Mittal said.

"If the committee members come to us, we will tell them our stand is before the government and they can go to the government and take our charter of demand from them," he said.

Dr Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union, Punjab, another constituent of the SKM, said, "Let us see. We will keep on sitting with the (representatives of the) government. We welcome the Supreme Court's suspension of the three laws till this committee gives its report. The farmers, however, are working towards total repeal and rejection of the three farm laws."

"We reject the formation and concept of such committee formation outright. We won't be discussing any issue with this committee," said Dr Pal.

All the three leaders were categorical that the Supreme Court-appointed four-member panel will not be able to find out any solution to the impasse between the agitating farmers and the central government over the repeal of the three farm laws.

"Farmers will continue with their agitation in the same manner till January 26, when we will agitate by taking out a tractor parade on Republic Day, after which we will decide upon the next course of action," Kakka said.

"Our demand still remains the same: Repeal all the three farm laws, enact an MSP-guarantee law. Nothing more, nothing less is on the table for discussion with anybody," Kakka added.

"We have repeatedly told the government about our apprehensions of these three farm laws," Dr Mittal said.

"These laws will lead to corporate hijacking of agri-processing, markets," he explained. "These three laws will lead to high input costs for farmers, sharp fall in crop prices, higher debts for farmers, fall in government procurement under MSP, winding up of the public distribution system, rise in food prices at the consumer level, rise in farmers' suicides, rise in hunger deaths; farmers will lose their lands because of corporate hijacking."