New Delhi: The majority of farmers in the country was in support of the three farm laws and a “repeal” or a “long suspension” of these legislations would be unfair to this “silent majority”, the Supreme Court-appointed committee to assess the laws had recommended in its report last year.
The report, submitted in court eight months before the laws were repealed, was made public Monday by Anil Ghanwat, one of the members of the panel.
The Modi government had enacted the three laws — Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 — in November 2020 to bring reforms in the farm sector.
However, the enactment of the laws had led to massive opposition from farmers, particularly in north India. Farmers sat on agitation for over a year, forcing the Narendra Modi government to finally repeal the laws in November 2021.
Set up in January 2021, the committee submitted its report to the apex court on 19 March 2021. But it wasn’t made public earlier.
Addressing the media in the national capital Monday, Ghanwat said he had written to Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana, informing him about his decision to release the report.
Ghanwat, along with two other panel members — agricultural economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Kumar Joshi — had previously written to the CJI twice, requesting to make the report public.
The panel was constituted under direction from a bench led by the then CJI S.A. Bobde, which sought recommendations on the contentious legislations after consultation with all the stakeholders.
“It (the report) could have educated protesting farmers about the benefits of the farm laws and potentially prevented the repeal of these laws,” Ghanwat said at the press meet.
Of the 73 farmer organisations that made submissions to the committee, 61, representing 3.3 crore farmers, fully supported the farm laws, Ghanwat said.
“Most agitating farmers came from Punjab and north India where MSP (minimum support price) plays a significant role. These farmers were misled into believing that the MSP is under threat. The law says nothing about MSP,” Ghanwat said.
Calling it a “political agitation”, Ghanwat, who is also a senior leader of the Maharashtra-based farm union Shetkari Sanghatana, said people like Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav joined the farmer agitation for their own political interest.
What the SC panel has recommended
Complete abolition of the Essential Commodities Act, 1995, or steps to substantially liberalise its provisions, were among the chief recommendations of the SC-appointed panel.
The price triggers, at present 100 per cent for perishables and 50 per cent for non-perishables in the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, may be reviewed and enhanced to 200 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively, it said.
Quantity of stock limits should be reasonably sufficient keeping in view the trading volumes in major mandis. “Stock limits, if imposed, should be reviewed on a fortnightly basis,” the panel recommended.
It also sought revisiting the MSP and procurement support policy, as these were designed for cereals during the Green Revolution. For wheat and rice, the panel called for a cap on procurement, which is commensurate with the needs of the public distribution system.
Besides, the procurement of crops at a declared MSP can be the prerogative of the states according to their specific agricultural policy priorities, the committee said.
It also recommended expediting development of a price information and market intelligence system, as mandated under Section 7 of the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, which was repealed.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)