Agriculture

Government is offering farmers ‘death by committee’: Experts

The government had offered to form a committee to discuss three farm laws in talks with farmers December 1

 
By Shagun Kapil
Published: Wednesday 02 December 2020
Govt’s offer to farmers ‘death by committee’: Experts. Photo: @Nakro_Jojo / Twitter

Farmer leaders and experts December 2, 2020, slammed the government for offering the formation of a committee to resolve the current crisis surrounding the three farm laws and called the move ‘death by committee’. 

The government had, on December 1, proposed a panel consisting of farmer leaders and agricultural experts to discuss the new farm laws. 

A signed statement by 15 organisations including Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, Right to Food Campaign, Nation for Farmers, among others said:

At the meeting called by the Union Minister of Agriculture on December 1, 2020, ostensibly to break the deadlock arising out of these mass protests, the government defended the laws and offered to setup a panel to defuse and kill the protests and play politics of divide and rule.

“We are alarmed at the repressive tactics to suppress farmers’ protests across the country and the arbitrary imposition of false cases on farmer activists. We strongly condemn the brutal repression of the struggle, tear-gassing and water cannoning on the Delhi borders in the biting cold,” the statement added. 

The government also asked farmers to come up with specific points to highlight their problems with the laws. This, the farmer leaders said, was a delaying tactic. It put the onus on the protesting farmers, they said. 

“When we have time and again made our issues known, why is the government asking us again to talk about our issues with the laws?” Satnam Singh Pannun, president, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee told Down To Earth (DTE).

“In the last meeting in October with the Centre, we had given in writing our objections to the laws. Why are they asking the same thing again? This is just to mislead the people,” Pannun, one of the members of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, national leadership of the farmer movement, added. 

Similarly, Jhanda Singh Jethuke from the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) told DTE that farmer leaders had been clear about their demands from the start. By suggesting a committee, the government was pretending to “do something”, he added. 

Experts also pointed out that recommendations from several reports by different committees had not been accepted till date and a new committee was just a delaying tactic. 

P Sainath, noted grassroots journalist and founder editor of People’s Archive of Rural India, called this a strategy for diverting from the core issues. 

“This is simply death by committee,” he said. Sainath was speaking at a virtual press conference held in solidarity with the farmers’ movement December 2. 

“You have been sitting on one committee’s report (referring to the Swaminathan commission) for 15 years. What will this five-member committee do?” he said.   

Another speaker, MG Devasahayam, former chief secretary of Haryana, called it a ‘fraud’. 

“This agitation was building up for several months. This is an absolute fraud on the farmers and they should reject this proposal. Their demand is simple — repeal these laws,” he said. 

Praveen Jha, professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said if there had to be a committee, it had to be formulated after withdrawing the laws, through a constitutional process. 

Speakers emphasised that the laws were first brought in through an ordinance at the height of the novel coronavirus disease pandemic and were unconstitutional since agriculture was a state subject. 

The government and farmer leaders will meet again December 3 to discuss the issue.

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