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Want three farm laws but with reforms: SC panel

New Delhi, March 22: Claiming that the now repealed three farm laws did not address a fraction of the unjust appropriations for the farmers, the Supreme Court appointed panel to study the laws said the repeal or long suspension of these laws would be unfair to the ‘silent’ majority who support the laws.

Stating that farmers had faced a loss of $40 billion per year due to the Essential Commodities Act, one of the members, Anil Ghanwat who on Monday released the report to the media, said this overrides whatever subsidies that the farmers are given and suggested changes.

The Supreme Court had appointed the committee in January 2021 and it had submitted the report in March 2021 but neither the Court released the report nor the Centre used it in any form.

Ghanwat, the Shetkari Sanghatana leader, said the Committee wanted the three laws to stay but not in the given format, and hence, has given ample recommendations that, if implemented, will help in rectifying the situation.

The broad recommendations said the repeal or a long suspension of these farm laws would be unfair to the ‘silent’ majority who support the laws.

The Committee received submissions from 73 farmers organisations with 61 of them representing 3.3 crore farmers.

Pointing out that the government appropriates farmers’ labour, income and wealth through the Essential Commodities Act, foreign trade barriers and that the farmers’ land is seized often without due compensation, Ghanwat said: “The farm laws did not address even a fraction of these unjust appropriations from farmers (as) most markets and property restrictions would have remained in place.”

He, however, agreed that these laws would have reduced farmers’ losses by giving them greater market choice.

Stating that farmers had faced a loss of $40 billion per year due to the Essential Commodities Act, Ghanwat said, the government should not intervene in deciding the rates for produce and ideally the Essential Commodities Act should not be there. “If at all, then it needs massive reforms. We need to do away with archaic law.”

It also said that states may be allowed some flexibility in implementation and design of the laws, with the prior approval of the Centre, so that the basic spirit of these laws for promoting effective competition in agricultural markets and creation of ‘one nation, one market’ is not violated.

An important recommendation was an alternative mechanism for dispute settlement, through civil courts or arbitration mechanism, may be provided to the stakeholders.

The government should take urgent steps towards strengthening agricultural infrastructure; enabling aggregation, assaying and quality sorting of agri produce through cooperatives and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), and closer interaction between farmers and warehouses/processors/exporters/retailers/bulk buyers, it said.

“An Agriculture Marketing Council, under the chairpersonship of the Union Minister of Agriculture, with all states and UTs as members may be formed on lines of the GST Council to reinforce cooperative efforts to monitor and streamline the implementation of these Acts,” the report said.

Apart from the broad recommendations, the report also gave different sets of recommendations regarding the three laws and another set related to agriculture price policies.

The MSP and procurement support policy, as was designed for cereals during the Green Revolution time, needs to be revisited, the Committee said.

For wheat and rice, there has to be a cap on procurement which is commensurate with the needs of the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Ghanwat, who is also the President of the Swatantra Bharat Party, said he would bring a lakh supporters to Delhi in a few months in support of the demands or recommendations in the Committee report.

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