Supreme Court order puts pressure on agitating farmers

Poornima Joshi | Updated on January 12, 2021

NEW DELHI, 25/11/2009: An outside view of Supreme Court building, in New Delhi on November 25, 2009. Photo: V. Sudershan   -  The Hindu

Stay on farm laws is a concession but the onus is now on them to chalk out a reasonable future strategy

The Supreme Court’s order of stay on the three farm laws and formation of an expert committee to oversee negotiations on the contentious legislation is a turning point from where the protesting farmers stare at a troubled path ahead.

The absence of 40 farm unions spearheading the movement when the Supreme Court heard the matter signified the reshaping of the dialogic roadmap without the consent or participation of one party. The farm unions had been consistently saying that they did not want the matter to be dealt with by the Court. As was evident from the stand taken by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in the minister’s meeting with farmers’ unions on January 8, this was the direction that the Government wanted to take. Tomar reportedly told the farmers that they should approach the Supreme Court and if the Court says the laws are to be repealed, the Government would then act.

The farm unions were totally opposed to taking the Court route.

“It is a very sad day indeed when an elected Government wants a policy issue resolved through the Supreme Court. The Court has already looked at the eviction-related issue and said that it is the democratic right of the farmers to protest. The second issue is related to the Constitutionality of whether the Centre has the right to pass such laws. Even if the Court looks at that aspect, the farmers are talking about the implications of this sort of policy direction and legislation. That is obviously a policy domain and not a legal or technical issue. We are very clear that it is a policy issue which has implications for the farmers and it is the Government that has to resolve it,” said farmer leader Kavitha Kuruganti.

But the apex court heard the matter and shifted the dialogue process to an expert committee whose members have been vocal in their support of the farm laws. In the light of constitution of this committee, it is no longer clear whether the farmers would get an audience with the Centre as was scheduled on January 15. The Government has got a breather from facing an angry crowd of farmers and with the protesters getting a seemingly big concession by the stay on the farm laws, the onus for a reasonable response lies on them.

Their immediate response was carefully drafted to welcome the stay but simultaneously underline they will not appear before any committee.

‘Not a solution’

“We noted that the Court has ordered suspension of implementation of the laws temporarily. Suspending the implementation of the laws as an interim measure is welcome but is not a solution and the farmer unions have not been asking for this solution, given the fact that the implementation can be reinstated at any time. The Government must repeal the laws and it must understand that farmers and people of India are opposed to the laws,” read a statement by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.

“The Supreme Court has formed a Committee in its own wisdom and farmer unions have nothing much to say on this. Farmer unions reiterate the fact that they will not participate in any such committee process,” they added, outlining an agitational programme including a bonfire of the three farm laws on the day of Lohri festival on January 13 and a “tractor parade” on Republic Day. The Centre has, simultaneously, told the apex court that elements involved with “anti-India, secessionist movement” are “financing” the ongoing agitation at Delhi’s borders.

The alternative to dialogue is confrontation. The Centre is more than willing to cooperate with a court-appointed expert committee and hold a dialogue under their aegis. The farmers are not. In case of a confrontation, it is anybody’s guess who is more likely to be blamed.

Published on January 12, 2021

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