Agri Business

Farmers must have the right to take matters related to farm laws to the court: Ghanwat

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on January 13, 2021

Anil Ghanwat

“My stand to support the law was as a member of my organisation,” says Shetkari Sanghatana president

Anil Ghanwat is one of the members of the Supreme Court (SC) panel on farm laws. He is president of Shetkari Sanghatana, the apex farmers’ body in Maharashtra founded by the late Sharad Joshi. For over 40 years, Shetkari Sanghatana has been advocating that farmers must get “freedom of access to markets and to technology”.

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Ghanwat, who is Joshi’s staunch follower, believes that farming could be profitable if farmers have access to free markets without the government’s intervention. His appointment by SC is being criticised by other farmer groups and opponents of farm laws on the grounds that he is already a supporter of the law. Speaking to BusinessLine, Ghanwat explained his stand. Excerpts.

Objections have been raised to your appointment by the SC on the farm laws panel saying that you have already supported the laws.

I have not concealed my stand at all. In fact, for the last 40 years, we are fighting for farmers’ freedom. We supported the new farm laws but not entirely. We (Shetkari Sanghatana) had demanded amendments in the law. My stand to support the law was as a member of my organisation. When I work as a committee member there is no question of imposing my personal views. The committee will discuss farm laws with an ‘open mind’ with farmers and all stakeholders must join the process with a similar approach.

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Why has your organisation opposed the demand by farmers to withdraw the laws?

Withdrawal of laws essentially means the continuation of the old structure of agriculture, which has exploited farmers all these years and forced them to end their lives. Do you want farmers to continue to end their lives? The efforts to liberalise farming must be welcomed and all the fears and questions raised by all farmers must be addressed. In fact, we have also demanded that the Essential Commodities Act be scrapped as farmers have incurred heavy losses because of the Act.

It is being alleged that you are on the SC panel because of your pro-BJP stand.

I am not associated with any political party and I don’t have any political ambition to become MLA or MP. We have not supported the BJP-led government, but the government has supported our stand which we have taken for the last 40 years. If the Congress government had introduced these laws, Shetkari Sanghatana would have taken the same stand. In fact, we supported WTO during Manmohan Singh’s regime. The Sanghatana recently agitated against BJP ministers when onion export was banned and onion prices came down.

Farmers don’t have the right to take legal recourse in the new farm laws...

The government should have discussed the laws with farmers. Farmers don’t have faith in the government’s revenue system and they can’t expect justice from the system. Farmers must have the right to take matters related to farm laws to the court. However, it is also a fact that court cases take years to come to a conclusion.

What if farmer organisations refuse to discuss with the committee?

The SC has formed the committee and farmers must come forward to discuss all their concerns. The committee will discuss with all farmers. This is an opportunity to raise all concerns. Farmers have to take a call.

Published on January 13, 2021

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