Several farmers’ organizations, farmers’ welfare campaigners, and social workers have petitioned Supreme Court Justice NV Ramana to reopen the hearings on the three farm laws passed by Parliament in September last year.
On January 19, an apex court bench led by then-Chief Justice SA Bobde suspended the application of agricultural regulations, allowing farmers to sell their produce to anybody in the country, enter into contract farming, and remove restrictions on the amount of stock that merchants can have.
The bench also created a four-member committee to investigate and report on the farmers’ complaints about the laws. The committee was reduced to five members after Bhupinder Singh Mann of the Bharatiya Kisan Union resigned.
Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat, Pramod Kumar Joshi of the International Food Policy Research Institute, agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, and Pramod Kumar Joshi of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Protests by farmers
The committee delivered its report on March 19, but the court has yet to resume the hearing, despite farmers protesting the legislation, mostly from Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh.
Since the end of November, these farmers have been protesting on the National Capital Region’s (NCR) outskirts. They wanted to stage daily protests in front of Parliament last week, but Delhi Police persuaded them to hold them at Jantar Mantar instead.
‘We respectfully request that you hear the farm reform case before the Supreme Court as soon as possible and provide orders. The activities have put us in a bind. We respect your decision. Your decision will be followed by us farmers.
Some farmers and associations have written or mailed to Chief Justice NV Ramana, requesting that he assess whether Parliament followed proper procedure in passing the acts; (ii) the impact of the legislation on farmers’ welfare and agriculture development; and (iii) the Committee report. They’ve also asked for justice from the Supreme Court by August 15 of this year.
Growth is slow
When contacted, P Chengal Reddy, Chief Advisor of the Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations, stated his organization backed farmers mailing letters to the Chief Justice of India, demanding an early restart of the hearing.
‘Since the 1990s, the farm sector has grown at a rate of less than 2%, compared to 10% growth in the service industry. The farm rules were passed to help farmers and the agriculture sector attract investments, technologies, and infrastructure,’ he explained.
‘While farmers in Punjab and a few north Indian states believe the agricultural rules are damaging and have begun a campaign to have them repealed, we believe these regulations are beneficial to the general development of the agriculture sector,’ Reddy added.
According to the CIFA Chief Advisor, the law’s stay has put many farmers in a bind. Reddy has also entered an appearance in the court on behalf of the laws.
Publication of the report
On the condition of anonymity, a member of the committee stated that the Supreme Court should at the very least reveal the committee’s report. According to Anil Ghanwat, there is some validity for farmers and their unions appealing for a restart of the farm laws hearing.
One of the key questions made by the petitioners in the farm laws case is whether the Centre has the authority to pass laws when agriculture is handled by the states. Supporters of the laws, on the other hand, say that agriculture is a concurrent issue and that the Centre has the authority to establish these regulations.
‘The Acts have been passed by Parliament. Someone objected and took the matter to court, halting the implementation. Why is there such a long wait in resuming the hearing, especially since the three-member committee it established has given its report?’ Reddy asked.
Objectors of the farm laws claim that they were passed to eliminate the minimum support price (MSP) programme for farmers and the sale of farm produce through the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yards.
The Centre, on the other hand, has allayed anxieties. It has acquired record volumes of rice, wheat, and cotton from growers under the MSP scheme during the last two years.
It further stated that APMC yards will continue to operate despite new legislation requiring new systems. The Union government has also set aside ₹ 1 lakh crore for infrastructure improvements at the APMC yards.
The Centre has offered to meet with the protesting farmers. On Friday, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told the Rajya Sabha that 11 rounds of talks with farmers had taken place. He described the Centre as ‘serious and sympathetic’ to farmers’ concerns.
During all 11 rounds, angry farmers, according to Tomar, demanded that the laws be repealed. Instead of seeking repeal of the Acts, the Union administration has emphasised that the farmers’ union should share their concerns about the agriculture Acts’ sections so that their complaints may be addressed,’ the minister stated.