The Supreme Court has been unusually aggressive with the government on the three farm bills. The Chief Justice of India made tough talking about this and said that he is going to form the ‘expert’ committee and will stay the implementation of the bill. And today, the court decided that a four member panel will speak to the farmers and the government. The members are Mr Bhupinder Singh Maan, Bharatiya Kisan Union ( Maan), Anil Gahlawat, Shetkari Sanghthana, Ashok Gulati, agricultural scientist and Pramod Joshi, International Food Policy Research Institute ( IFPRI). If you scan newspapers of the last two months, you will find most of these gentlemen I there is no gender justice here), have been very vocal about the new farm bills which the government brought. They wanted to get it implemented. Bhupinder Singh Maan is the president of Bharatiya Kisan Union which had actually supported the government openly. The only difference is that they wanted the government to ensure Minimum Support Price. Ashok Gulati is a well known columnist and is visible in the media most of the time vociferously supporting the bill.
Shetkari Sagnthan has always been in support of farm reform and just have a look at the speeches of Anil Gahalawat then you will find how he feel that the current agriculture bill is more beneficial for farmers because it give them ‘opportunity’ to variety of places and not merely the Mandis which are going to get demolished after the bills. Basically, there is a farm lobby which feel that it can deal with the corporate houses and get a better deal but these are isolated farmers. Frankly speaking the whole question of corportisation of agriculture sector is an assault on not merely farmers but on India’s Dalit Bahujan Adivasi population as it hurt them the most. How do you expect the small and marginal farmers to bargain with Ambanis and Adanis ? They cant even bargain with local dealers and the result is farmers suicide every year as they dont get their money back and are forced to sell their product in much lower prices.
Therefore, we need to understand that the Supreme Court order today is not ‘revolutionary’ but an attempt to defuse the crisis without changing anything. if the courts were really concerned about the farmers, they would have sought farmers representative in the committee and called those economists and agriculturalists who have been working closely with farmers and not those who are corporate friendly. Nor is today’s stay on ‘implementation’ of the three farm bill an answer. It is trying to save the political executive by playing the role of the executive. It is not the job of the court to make laws or deal with law and order situations. Court has to see the legality of an issue. In fact, farmers are not even keen to go to the court on this issue as they know that the government wants to use the Courts to save its skin without retracting the laws. We have seen many times in recent years when the judges make big statements but the final judgements disappointed us.
The Supreme Court was ‘upset’ with the government response. Does the court feel that the laws may be better but the government has not been able to communicate it. Is it the job of the court to mediate for the government. If that is the case, why didnt the court take the matters related to Jammu and Kashmir or anti-NRC-CAA protests. The court has not been able to send a message to the government to stop harassment of the activists participating in the protests.
While it looks that the courts are really upset but the other side is that it is trying to find a way for a ‘negotiated’ settlement but if that has to happen, the committee that it appointed should have people known to have sympathies towards farmers and not towards the corporate.
How are the farmers expected to have faith in such a committee when the members of the committee and their views are in public domain and well known.
We know that various groups wanted to go to the court deliberately to divide the farmers and ensure to get a favorable judgement. The Supreme Court’s intervention will not build the confidence of the farmers. It is the political executive that has to take a call and it is doing it deliberately. The ruling party has failed in handling the issue and does not want to budge an inch because the bills are basically aimed to strengthen the hands of the corporate and not of the farmers.
The issue of farm bills has to be responded to politically and not through the courts. For every thing that the political executive wants to get implemented, it takes the court route as that is the safest way for them to get their things ‘legitimised’. It is so because we all are missing Justice H R Khanna, Justice V R Krishna Iyer who had the courage and conviction to stand with the people and their rights when powerful leaders tried to suppress them ‘legally’.
Even after sixty deaths, the government continues to play multiple games to foil this unity of the farmers. One side invites them for negotiations while the Ministers threaten them that their ‘details’ are with them, the other side, a notorious IT cell has been targeting the farm protest with tags like Khalistan, urban naxals, Maoists, anti nationals. Many BJP leaders have said that farmers are eating pizzas and kaju-badam and biryani as if eating that is anti national. But this is the popular narrative they build to polarise. Biryani is Muslim and symbolise how the Sangh mind treat these protests. The BJP has already said that it would embark on big rallies to ‘educate’ people about the bills. Prime Minister spoke about it with people online through his ‘man kee baat’. Farmers unity was extraordinary and yet the government wanted to foil it. Now, the Supreme Court has taken the matter in its hand. It says the ‘implementation; is stayed. We dont know what is the mandate of this committee and what is the time schedule given to it but we dont expect much from these committees. Sad part is that the political executive of this country has shamelessly refused to admit that they made the bills without consulting the farmers if not to Ambanis and Adanis. Let us watch what the court does and how the committee responds to the entire issue. Frankly speaking the government has completely failed and it remained arrogant enough to continue with its ranting about the nature of the protests. It is time it realise that it needs to protect the farmers and not the business tycoons who are looking to grab their land and resources.
– Vidya Bhushan Rawat
January 12th, 2021