Pro-corporate farm lobby to defuse crisis through Supreme Court-appointed panel?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat. Dated: 1/14/2021 11:42:29 PM

“Indeed, how do you expect small and marginal farmers to bargain with Ambanis and Adanis? They can’t even bargain with local dealers. The result is, farmers are forced to commit suicide after they are pushed to sell their produce at a much lower price.”

The Supreme Court of has been unusually aggressive with the government on the three farm bills, it would seem. Indeed, first SA Bobde, Chief Justice of India, talked tough and said that he is going to form an expert committee and will stay the implementation of the bills. Then, the court actually announced a four member panel to speak to the farmers and the government.
The members of the committee are Bhupinder Singh Mann of the BharatiyaKisan Union (Maan), Anil Ghanwat of the ShetkariSanghthana, agricultural economist Ashok Gulati and Dr Pramod Joshi of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). If you scan though newspapers of the last two months, you will find most of these gentlemen have been very vocal about the new farm bills. They have wanted to get these implemented.
Bhupinder Singh Maan is the president of BharatiyaKisan Union (Maan), which supported the government openly. The only difference was that he wanted the government to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP). Ashok Gulati is a well known columnist and is visible in the media most of the time vociferously supporting the bills.
As for the rheShetkariSagnthan has also support of farm reforms, and one has to look at the speeches of Anil Gahlawat to find out what he feels about the three farm bills. He believes, they are beneficial to farmers because they give them an 'opportunity' to sell their products to a variety of markets and not merely to Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis, which may be demolished after the bills are made operational.
In fact, there is a farm lobby which feels that it can deal with corporate houses and get a better deal. This group does not take into account the fact that corportisation of the agricultural sector is an assault on not merely farmers but on India's Dalit Bahujan Adivasi population, whom it hurts the most.
Indeed, how do you expect small and marginal farmers to bargain with Ambanis and Adanis? They can’t even bargain with local dealers. The result is, farmers are forced to commit suicide after they are pushed to sell their produce at a much lower price.
There is a need to understand that the Supreme Court order is an attempt to defuse the crisis without changing anything. If the courts were really concerned about the farmers, they would have sought farmers’ representatives in the committee and called those economists and agriculturalists who have been working closely with farmers and not those who are corporate friendly.
Nor is the apex court stay on 'implementation' of the three farm bills an answer. It is trying to save the political executive by playing the role of the executive. It is not the job of the court to make laws or deal with the law and order situation. The court has to see the legality of an issue.
It is well known that farmers’ groups have not been keen to go to the court in order to seek a legal solution, as they know that the government wants to use the court to save its skin without retracting on the bills. We have seen many times in recent years when judges make big statements but the final judgement disappoints.
Anil Ghanwat, Bhupinder Singh Mann, Ashok Gulati, Pramod Joshi
The Supreme Court appeared to suggest it was upset with the government response. But is it job of the court to mediate for the government? One wonders why didn’t the court take the matters related to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) or anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)-National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests. The court has not been able to send a message to the government to stop harassment of activists participating in protests.
“Most of the gentlemen in the Supreme Court-appointed committee have been very vocal about implementation of the farm bills”
It may appear that the court is trying to find a way for a 'negotiated' settlement, but for that to happen, the committee that it has appointed should have people known to have sympathies towards farmers and not towards the corporates. How can farmers have faith in such a committee when its members and their views are in public domain and are well known?
Various groups have trying to divide the farmers though the court and get a favorable judgement. The Supreme Court's intervention will not build confidence of the farmers. It is the political executive that has to take the call. The ruling party has failed in handling the issue and does not want to budge an inch because the bills are aimed at strengthening the hands of the corporates and not the farmers.
The issue of farm bills has to be responded to politically and not through courts. For everything that the political executive wants to get implemented, it takes the court route as that is the safest way for them to get their things 'legitimised'. Without doubt, we missing such outstanding judges like Justices HR Khanna and VR Krishna Iyer, who had the courage and conviction to stand with the people and their rights when powerful leaders tried to suppress them 'legally'.
Even after 60 deaths, the government continues to play multiple games to foil farmers’ unity. One side invites them for negotiations, while ministers threaten them that their 'details' are with them and the notorious IT cell has been targeting the farm protesters with tags like Khalistani, urban Naxals, Maoists, anti-nationals etc.
Many BJP leaders have said that farmers are eating pizzas, kaju-badam and biryani as if eating all this is anti-national. But this is the popular narrative they build in order to polarise. The word Biryani is used in order to suggest that it a dish which Muslims alone eat. It reveals how the Sangh mindset treats the protesters.
BJP has already said that it would embark on big rallies to 'educate' people about the bills. The Prime Minister spoke about it with people online through his Mann Ki Baat broadcast. Farmers’ unity was extraordinary and yet the government wanted to foil it. Now, the Supreme Court has taken the matter in its hand. It says the 'implementation’ is stayed. We don’t know what is the mandate of the committee and what is the time schedule given to it, but we don’t expect much from it.
The sad part is that the political executive of the country has shamelessly refused to admit that they made the bills without consulting farmers. Let us watch what the court does and how the committee responds to the entire issue even as the government failure is there for all to see. It is time one realises that the government needs to protect farmers and not tycoons who are looking to grab their land and resources.
*Human rights defender

 

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