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Panel report on farm laws not yet out

Its implementation will aid in peaceful resolution of the stalemate, says member

Almost six months after the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the farm reform laws submitted its report to the top court in a sealed cover, two of the panel’s members are asking why it has not yet been made public.

“The report has addressed all apprehensions of the farmers. The committee was confident that the recommendations will pave the way for resolving the ongoing farmers’ agitation,” said one of the members, Anil Ghanwat, in a letter to the Chief Justice of India that was posted on September 1 and emailed on September 6. “As a member of the committee, especially representing the farmers’ community, I am pained that the issue raised by the farmers is not yet resolved and the agitation is continuing. I feel the report has not been given any attention by the hon’ble Supreme Court,” added Mr. Ghanwat, who heads the Shetkari Sanghatana farmers group.

He urged the SC to release the report in the public domain and forward it to the Government of India for implementation to aid in a “peaceful resolution of the stalemate to the farmers’ satisfaction at the earliest”. He would not share any information about the recommendations made in the report.

The committee was set up by the Supreme Court on January 12 in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by some farm groups, at a time when the unions demanding the repeal of three agricultural reform laws were still holding a series of talks with government Ministers. By the time the committee finished its consultations and submitted its report on March 19, the talks had broken down into a stalemate that continues to this day.

Long meetings

“For two months, we worked in a hectic manner, holding meetings for 10-12 hours each day, meeting so many different stakeholders from farmers’ groups, government and industry all across the country. But now the report is just sitting gathering dust in its sealed cover,” said Pramod Kumar Joshi, the South Asia director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who was also a member of the committee.

He told The Hindu that even if the committee’s recommendations were not fully accepted, it would at least contribute to the debate and help to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

The third member of the panel, agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, said he respected Mr. Ghanwat’s feelings, but he himself felt that it was up to the SC “to see how they want to make use of it, how and when they want to share it with the farmers and the government. Making it public is its prerogative.”

The implementation of the three laws were suspended by the top court until the committee’s recommendations could be perused, but the Central government, which refused to repeal the laws, has also taken no further action to ensure implementation. “The government is also a party in the case, so they could also appeal to the SC to expedite the hearing, but they have not done so,” Mr. Ghanwat told The Hindu.

“I myself am a farmer leader, so I am hurt to see farmers sitting on the road for such a long time in sun and rain with no attempt being made to resolve their issues,” he added.

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