Farmers protest | SC panel to meet State govts, farm unions from Jan 21

Delhi Police suggests farmers stay outside Delhi on Republic Day; unions insist on Outer Ring Road parade

Updated - January 19, 2021 09:30 pm IST

Published - January 19, 2021 09:26 pm IST

Farmers seen inside a temporary shelter during their protest on new farm laws, in New Delhi on January 19, 2021.

Farmers seen inside a temporary shelter during their protest on new farm laws, in New Delhi on January 19, 2021.

The Supreme Court-appointed committee on farmers’ issues has decided to meet with State governments and State Agricultural Marketing Boards along with farm unions and cooperatives to seek their views on the farm reform laws , starting January 21. The panel has laid out a two-month roadmap for consultations after their first meeting on Tuesday.

At the Singhu border, leaders of protesting farm unions again met with senior Delhi Police officials who suggested that it might be better to hold the farmers’ Republic Day tractor parade on the Peripheral Expressways outside Delhi rather than entering the city. The Supreme Court will hear the issue again on Wednesday, just hours before union leaders and Central Ministers meet for the tenth round of talks. The talks were originally supposed to be held on Tuesday, but were postponed to Wednesday afternoon .

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The SC-appointed panel began work on Tuesday, chalking out a plan to hold wide-ranging consultations on the contentious farm laws, including a proposal to set up a portal to accept online feedback.

Asked whether this plan was meant to compensate for the fact that such consultations were not held before the laws were introduced in Parliament, as is the usual practice, panel member Pramod Kumar Joshi said they were simply following the apex court’s mandate.

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“That is the legislature’s part. The Supreme Court has very clearly written that we need not enter into the legislature’s part. So we will not comment on that, whether consultation was to be done or not done. That is not our view,” said Dr. Joshi, who is the former South Asia director for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“Our mandate is only to meet with all those who are affected by the three laws... all farmers, aggrieved or non-aggrieved, happy or neutral, central as well as State governments, State marketing boards, farmer producer organisations, cooperatives, self-help groups,” he said.

A list of those to be consulted will be finalised on Wednesday morning, with the first invitations being sent out for meetings on Thursday.

“We are planning to meet at least 20 organisations on January 21. We are sending invites to organisations from different States,” said another panel member Anil Ghanwat, who is president of pro-reforms farm union Shetkari Sangathan. The third member of the panel is agricultural economist Ashok Gulati.

For those who cannot come to Delhi, consultations will be held over online platforms such as Zoom. A website is also being set up to invite views from any other interested parties who have relevant feedback on the laws.

A written invitation will also be sent to the unions protesting on the Delhi border. “We hope they will come. We are not the government, we are appointed by the Supreme Court, so we will request them to join. And through us, they can reach the Supreme Court,” said Dr. Joshi.

The protesting unions have made it clear they are not interested in engaging with the panel, but are intent on continuing with the direct dialogue process with the Centre. Several union leaders privately expressed concern about the one-day postponement of the tenth round of talks, worrying whether the Centre was relying on developments in the Court in the morning to affect the afternoon’s talks.

“We are going in with the same message, we want repeal of the laws,” said Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal, on the eve of the talks.

He added that the farmers were still intent on holding a tractor parade on Outer Ring Road in the capital on January 26, after the official parade. “The Delhi Police officials today said that Outer Ring Road was too congested. They suggested we stay on the KMP [that is, the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal, or Peripheral Expressways outside the city]. But we persisted,” he said, adding that further discussions with police officials were expected later this week.

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