January 13, 2021 7:02 pm

SC Steps In

IN a step towards resolving the ongoing farmers’ protest, the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of the three farming laws and announced the establishment of a committee of experts to recommend if any changes were needed in the laws. The court, however, said that the suspension cannot be indefinite or for “an empty purpose”. “All it needs to be seen is which part needs to be deleted from the law and which should stay. that is why a committee is needed,” the Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said.

The court’s decision was welcomed by farmer leaders but they made it clear that they would not call off their protest until the laws are repealed. In a statement, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) also said that they will not participate in any court-ordered committee process. The farmers body also expressed apprehensions over the members chosen for the committee saying these people “are known for their support to the three Acts”.

As is clear, the farmers are not ready to budge. They want the three farm laws passed by the union government that deregulate crop pricing withdrawn. They argue that the laws will only hurt their livelihoods and will only benefit large corporations. The situation remains deadlocked. For over a month now the farmers have laid a siege to New Delhi, blocking its main entry points. If the protests continue, the government, it seems, will have fewer options left but to accede to farmers’ demands. If this happens this will be the first time that the Modi government will be forced to withdraw any of the laws it has passed so far.

One of the biggest charge against the BJP-led union government is that it has been unilaterally passing the far-reaching laws with a bearing on the lives of the millions of people. This started with sudden demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes in November 2016 that plunged the country into a virtual chaos. People thronged the banks to either exchange or deposit their old currency. Long queues of people, a significant number of them senior citizens, appeared outside the banks and ATMs to deposit their cash. Scores lost their lives in the process. Then followed the GST reform which crushed the small businesses. This was followed by the revocation of Article 370 that granted J&K its semi-autonomous status within Indian Union. The move’s disruptive fallout is still playing out in J&K and Ladakh, the former parts of J&K state, now downgraded into two union territories. Following this, the centre came up with Citizenship Amendment Act that ensured that only non-Muslim refugees from the neighbouring countries are entitled to Indian citizenship. Though the CAA was also resisted by people, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic ended the protest. Now the farmers protest is taking place despite the pandemic. And it remains to be seen how the central government responds to it. The best course for the government is to address the anxieties of the farmers and do everything to assure them that their livelihoods will not be threatened.

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