On Tuesday, the Supreme Court temporarily stayed the implementation of the contentious far laws, forming a committee to resolve the deadlock. Since the end of November last year, thousands of farmers have remained gathered outside the national capital protesting three new laws. Multiple rounds of talks with the Centre have failed to produce the desired results, and the protesters have recently announced their intention to amp up the agitation.
Chief Justice SA Bobde has named four agriculturists to the newly formed panel. The idea here is for these individuals to negotiate between the farmers' bodies and the government and hopefully create a congenial atmosphere and improve the trust and confidence of the farmers.
But the protesting farmers appear to have already turned against the four member panel, stating that they will not accept the SC's decision. According to farmer leaders' the central government is bringing this committee through Supreme Court, and they claim that the members are pro-government and in favour of the laws.
So, what exactly have the four members of the panel said or done when it comes to the farmers' protest? Over the last two months, the four individuals have expressed their support for the farm laws in various ways, even as some of them found fault with the way things have devolved since the bills were introduced.
"I have found how farmers in India have been implicitly taxed through restrictive trade and marketing policies. This is so much in contrast with China and other OECD countries that heavily subsidise their agriculture. So, the freedom to sell is the beginning towards correcting this massive distortion and that’s why I welcome this move," Ashok Gulati had written in an analytical piece for the Indian Express in September last year.
Anil Ghanwat is the President of the Shetkari Sangathan - a group that is backing the farm laws and has threatened to hit the streets if the laws are repealed. While he had been in favour of a temporary stay on the laws, Ghanwat has called for amendments rather than outright nullification.
"This movement should stop somewhere and a law should be made in the interest of farmers. First we need to listen to farmers, if they had some misconception about Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), we will clear it, they need to be assured that whatever is happening is in their interest," he told ANI after being named to the committee, calling for farmers to have the freedom to choose between MSP or the lack thereof.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, the national president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union is perhaps one of the most unusual members of the team. He is one of the few farm leaders who have supported the laws. He was a Rajya Sabha MP in 1990 and a member of delegation of Indian Members of Parliament to the UN in 1995. His son is a member of the Congress party, and as some news reports reiterated vociferously, had supported the Congress party ahead of the Punjab polls in 2019.
But at the same time, the All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC) which is chaired by Mann has made their approval of the farm laws clear. In December 2020, representatives from the group had met with Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar seeking the implementation of the three laws with a few amendments.
Pramod Kumar Joshi of the International Food Policy Research Institute is the final member of the team. And going by his own words, he appears to hold a similar perspective. In the past, Joshi had written an article in a leading financial daily, where he had said it is unfortunate that farmers are changing the goalposts before every negotiation.