All eyes are also on the Supreme Court appointed committee of experts. The apex court in its order on January 12 had tasked the committee to start deliberations within 10 days and submit its recommendations within two months of its first sitting. Since the first round of meetings by the committee was held on January 21, chances are that its report will be submitted on or before March 21.
Another indication that the committee is in the process of finalizing its report is that since the third week of February, the website of the committee has stopped accepting suggestions from the public.
Curiously, several farmers’ unions protesting at the borders of Delhi since November 26 do not seem to be aware of the website or of the deliberations by the committee. The central coordination committee of 400 farmers’ unions spearheading the protests does not seem to have appeared before the committee either.
The confusion persists because while the website lists 15 meetings including two preparatory meetings by the expert committee, only one farmers’ organization, namely All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC), is named in one of the nine press releases issued by the committee till now.
Curiously again, the committee appears to have held three meetings with farmers’ unions and two more meetings with ‘farmers’ groups’. While the press releases, short and cryptic, mention that “10 unions from 8 states, 17 organisations from 11 states and 32 farmers’ organisations from nine states” participated in deliberations and shared their opinion and suggestions, their identity is nowhere mentioned on the website. Indeed, the press releases do not even explain the difference between farmers’ unions and farmers’ groups.
The committee also met with the representatives of state governments online. But curiously again, names of several significant states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh seem to be missing from the solitary meeting the committee had with the states. The committee however met with industry representatives from AMUL, Venkateshwara Hatcheries, ITC besides procurement agencies like FCI, NAFED and central organisations like NABARD.
The three experts, the fourth backed out before the committee could meet and the court did not name anyone in his place, also held a meeting with professionals and academicians; but once again their names are conspicuous by their absence.
Several protesting farmers allege that the website was not publicized; that no mention was made of the website in Parliament and they had not come across prominent public notices calling for suggestions.
But will the committee of experts, who had helped the government frame the laws, depart significantly from them? What kind of face-saving escape routes will they suggest and what will the Supreme Court then direct? With international support growing for the farmers’ protest and the British House of Commons slated to discuss the issue on March 8, how long can the government allow the impasse to last?
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