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The present ongoing agitation is led by 35 farmers’ union out of which 31 are from Punjab alone who are mostly cultivators of wheat and paddy and the others being from Haryana, western U.P and M.P. The farmers’ unions affiliated to left wing political parties, Aam Admi Party, Akali Dal and the Congress have also joined the agitation for the obvious reasons.

The agitation is mainly led by farmers of Punjab who are the biggest beneficiary of the Centre’s wheat and paddy procurement. They fear that the Central Agencies such as Food Corporation of India (FCI) may scale down the target set for food procurement and even the Public Distribution System (PDS) allotment system may switch over to direct benefit transfer system. Further they clamor for MSP (Minimum Support Price) being made mandatory. The farmers’ agitation which started as an action to redress the grievance of the farmers, now changed their main agenda to repeal the three Agriculture Reforms Acts and they have rejected the government’s offer to discuss clause by clause of the Acts to find amicable changes to the provisions of the three Acts to remove all the contentious issues involved which are harmful to the interests of the farmers. In spite of many round of talks, the stalemate continues.

The agriculture sector needs reforms which has been eluding till now. A dispassionate reading of the various clauses of the current three parts reforms will reveal that there is nothing very wrong to necessitate to repel the Acts and the agitating farmers are over playing their demands and are trying to force the government through their acts of blocking the roads causing inconvenience to movements of vehicles and travel to and from the national capital to come to their terms. The Supreme Court of India had issued stern instructions to the administration in their order on Shaheen Bagh blockade by the agitators against CAA that such type of protests and expression of dissent should be allowed only at designated places without causing inconvenience to the public at large while upholding the right to protest in a peaceful manner. While delivering the judgment the Hon’ble justice Kaul said, “Such kind of occupation of public ways, whether at the sight in question or anywhere else, for protests is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of protests are subjected to legal position as enunciated above with some sympathy and dialogue, but not permitted to get out of hand.” But the agitating farmers have blatantly violated the Supreme Court order and when viewed against what has happened in Karnal in Haryana on last Sunday when the proposed Kisan Panchayat of Haryana C M Khattar’s was forced to be abandoned because of the hooliganisms of the agitating farmers, nobody can predict whether the purported peaceful protests would go out of hand.

The Supreme Court of India has intervened and suspended the implementation of the three farms laws and set up a committee of 4 eminent persons to examine the legislations to make necessary changes, if need be, to alleviate the grievances of the agitating farmers by holding talks with the stake holders and to submit their report to the Supreme Court. The Hon’ble Supreme Court made it clear, “No power can stop us from forming the committee. We are not catering to everyone’s idea of what a good committee is. If farmers want resolution, they will go before the committee and put forth their views. It will not pass any order or punish you. It will submit a report to us”. The bench also directed the stake holders including farmers and government not to present arguments on legislative competence of parliament to enact the laws before the Committee. The committee will inform the Apex Court about the ground reality and what the farmers want and they (The Supreme Court) will decide the validity of the laws. The Supreme Court bench made it very clear that all farmers who want to solve the problem arising from the farm laws would appear before the committee and express their grievances.

But the opposing farmers unions say, “Farmers wish to interact with government, not S C where farmers did not present themselves. Members of the committee aren’t dependable as they have been writing on how agri laws pro-farmer. We will continue our agitation”. The attitude of the agitating and opposing farmers can create a pungent situation to tackle the law-and-order problems which may go out of hand if incidents like what happened in Karnal in Haryana on last Sunday. The situation is bound to become tense as days approach the proposed tractor rally demonstration on 26th January by the agitating farmers and if police action becomes inevitable, the anti-social and trouble makers may take advantage which may lead to unpleasant situations.

The agitating farmers should understand that they form only a small section of farmers belonging mainly to Punjab, Haryana and Western UP and the farmers belonging to south, east, west and central India mostly are not participating or many of them are favouring the newly introduced laws. Such being the case, the agitating farmers cannot claim to be representative of Kisans all over India and they have to respect the opponents’ view also.

The action taken by the Supreme Court considering the seriousness of the long-protracted agitation is welcome step to defuse the situation to find an amicable solution, the unhelpful attitude of the agitating farmers whose main demand is the repealing of all three Acts cannot be appreciated. Besides, blocking the vehicular movements to and from the national capital inconveniencing the public is against the letter and spirit of the constitution. The Hon’ble Supreme Court already expressed their ire against the agitating farmers and their lawyers for not participating in the deliberations. The economic and commercial activities are suffering incurring huge revenue loss for the nation affecting the GDP of the nation at a time our country is on the threshold of introducing the Corona vaccine and the economy is slowly emerging from the devastating effect of the Pandemic and poised for a takeoff.

The present initiative undertaken by the Apex Court has its repercussions with regard to the constitutional proprieties, executive powers and prerogatives of the parliament. “Judiciary acting on policy prescriptions of experts can complicate the situation where some farmers demand repeal and others offer support. The expert committee’s report and its negotiations deciding the fate of laws or the course of agitation can send subversive signals too. Powerful interest groups demanding concessions may be emboldened to adopt similar pressure tactics to bypass government and parliament”. If it is so, it is going to set precedence and is a dangerous course. However, since the intent of the Supreme Court is genuine to bring sanity to the ongoing agitation to bring a purposeful dialogue to amicably settle the contentious issues, it is hopefully believed that the efforts being taken now would pave the way for the veritable realisation of the objectives bringing peace and harmony and understanding finding the much-needed solutions acceptable to all the warring stake holders.

T. R. Radhakrishnan

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