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Farmers` protests: SC pulls up Centre, says `you are not handling the issue correctly`

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday (January 11, 2021) lambasted the Central government over its handling of the farmers’ protests against the new farm laws at the Delhi borders and said that they don’t believe that the Centre is dealing with the issue correctly.

The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde during a hearing on a clutch of petitions related to the protests said that the drawn-out confrontation was causing distress to farmers.

The bench said, “We do not think the Centre is handling the issue correctly. We have to take some action today. We don’t think you are being effective. If laws are put on hold then negotiations will have a chance to work out.”

It added, “We are extremely disappointed with the negotiation process. We don’t want to make any stray observations on your negotiations but we are extremely disappointed with the process.”

Chief Justice Bobde repeated a suggestion that the Centre pause the legislation while farmers’ concerns are heard and said the court would pass orders if the two sides remained at an impasse.

Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were representing the Centre.

The top court asked the parties to suggest two-three names of former CJIs including former CJI R M Lodha who can head the apex court-appointed panel.

Earlier on December 17, 2020, the Supreme Court had acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and suggested the idea of putting on hold the new farm laws to enable negotiations with agitating farmers.

Thousands of farmers have camped at the Delhi borders since late November in 2020 and have been protesting against the three laws that were enacted in September – The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

Farmers' protests

These laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. On the other hand, the agitating farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. 

Eight round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions to end agitation against the new farm laws have remained inconclusive and all eyes are now on the meeting on January 15. 

The last round of talks with the representatives of 41 farmers’ unions was held at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on January 8, which was attended by Union Minister for Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister for Railways, Commerce and Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal and Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Som Prakash.

Farmers' protests

Tomar had again reiterated that the farm laws have been made keeping in mind the benefits of farmers throughout the country and that the Centre is concerned about farmers and wants the agitation to end.

The Agriculture Minister had also expressed that the farmers’ unions have kept the agitation disciplined which was praiseworthy and said that the government is willing to continue discussions with an open mind.

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