New Delhi, Jan 12, 2021: The Supreme Court-appointed four-member committee to resolve the dispute between agitating farmer unions and the Centre over three new farm laws is dominated by pro-farm reform voices.
Among the members, Anil Ghanawat is the president of Shetkari Sanghatan (SS), a farmers’ organisation in Maharashtra. Ghanawat is a strong advocate of farm reforms brought in by the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.
Another representative of farmers in the committee, Bhupinder Singh Mann, the ex-Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab and national president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Mann), had written to the PM Narendra Modi suggesting amendments in the farm laws to address concerns of the farmers in September last year.
Other two members include Dr Ashok Gulati, an agronomist and Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, a leading agri scientist. Both Dr Gulati and Dr Joshi are strong votaries of the three agricultural farm reforms by Centre.
Here is a look at the four members of the SC-appointed panel:
Anil Ghanwat, president, Shetkari Saghathan
A farmer union representative in the committee, Anil Ghanwat of the Shetkar Sanghatan founded by late Sharad Joshi had been openly supporting Center’s farm laws. In December 2020, Shetkari Sanghathan had warned that if the Centre withdraws the new laws, no political party will ever dare to bring reforms in the agricultural sector in future.
"As per the demands by the agitating farmers, the APMC and MSP systems will continue and there is no reason for the agitation," Ghanwat had told media.
"The demand to scrap the laws is completely wrong, the agitating farmers are insisting that the system which forced farmers to end their lives all these years should be continued,’ Anil Dhanwat said.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, president, BKU (Mann)
Punjab-based farmer union leader Bhupinder Singh Mann is the chairman of BKU (Mann). He is also chairman of All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC). The members of AIKCC had met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in December last year and submitted a memorandum supporting the farm laws with some amendments. It had also suggested that states where farmers are protesting should be kept out of the farm reforms ambit and be implemented in all other states. Interestingly, BS Mann was not a signatory to this memorandum.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, however, had written a letter to PM Narendra Modi in September last urging him to consider changes in the three farm laws and that the laws in current form will not be of any help to the farmers.
Dr Ashok Gulati, Renowned Agronomist
A well-known agricultural economist, Dr Ahok Gulati is recognised for his contribution to the field. He is also former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), the advisory body of the Government of India on food supplies and pricing policies.
Dr Gulati is a strong supporter of farm reforms. In one of his articles, Dr Ashok Gulati wrote that the farm laws are a step in the right direction. He argued that the reforms will help in improving price realisation for the farmers.
In another article, Dr Gulati wrote that new farm laws will also encourage private investment in storage, thus reducing wastage and help contain seasonal price volatility.
More recently, Dr Gulati has been quoted in the media batting for the farmer producer organisations over the APMC mandis.
Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, Renowned Agri Scientist
Superannuated Director (South Asia) of International Food Policy Research Institute, Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi is a renowned agri scientist and is a strong supporter of farm reforms.
On farmer unions’ demand for a legal guarantee on MSP, Dr Joshi is of the opinion that prices are determined by interplay between demand, supply and global prices and it is impossible to have legally-guaranteed prices.
In one of his recent articles, Dr Joshi said that the new laws provide alternate marketing opportunities to the farmers and will only adversely affect the traders/middlemen, mostly in Punjab and Haryana. He is also a strong supporter of contract farming and has been quoted saying that the farmers who are part of the agitation are a victim of misinformation and that the government should build effective communication strategy to build trust in a campaign mode.