Repealing the three farm laws would have been unfair to the “silent majority” of farmers who had supported the agriculture reforms introduced by the Narendra Modi government in September 2020, a Supreme Court-appointed committee had advised in its report, one its member said on Monday.

Anil Ghanwat, a member of the committee appointed to assess the three farm laws, made the comment as he released the panel’s report on Monday. In a statement, Ghanwat said that the report is based on submissions from 73 farmers’ organisations.

“Out of 73, 61 of them, representing 3.3 crore farmers, had fully supported the farm laws,” Ghanwat said.

Three farm laws were withdrawn by Parliament on November 29 after more than a year of protests by farmer unions.

The Supreme Court had appointed the four-member committee in January last year after farmers’ unions and the central government had failed to reach an agreement on the farm laws after holding several rounds of talks.

The committee had submitted the report on March 19, 2021, but its details were not made public.

Read the full report here.

Supreme Court-appointed panel member Anil Ghanwat. Anil Ghanwat/Facebook.

In his statement, Ghanwat said that the “farmers were misled by socialist and communist leaders” who lied to them about the minimum support price, or MSP, being under threat. The MSP is the rate at which the government buys farm produce.

“The laws said nothing about MSP,” Ghanwat said.

He said that the laws would have reduced farmers’ losses by “giving them a greater market choice”. However, Ghanwat also said that there were shortcomings in the laws as the government had not consulted farmers when preparing the laws.

“The committee’s report provided options to address these shortcomings,” he added.

Justifying the release of the report a year after it was formally submitted to the Supreme Court, Ghanwat said that it has educational value for farmers.

“Farmers mainly from North India who protested against these laws and got them repealed will now realise that they have harmed themselves and lost an opportunity to increase their income,” his statement read.

Ghanwat also said that the repeal of the laws was a “great political mistake” for the Modi government and also the reason why the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the recent Assembly elections in Punjab.

“The poor performance of BJP in Punjab shows that the repeal did not make any political difference,” he added.

Panel’s recommendations

  • 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.
  • The government should take urgent steps towards strengthening agricultural infrastructure, enabling aggregation, assaying and quality sorting of agri produce.
  • The feedback received by the committee manifested that many respondents were uncertain on some aspects of the Acts, though they supported the overall laws. A large-scale communication exercise, therefore, needs to be taken up by the government to alleviate the apprehensions, doubts and concerns of rest of stakeholders.  

The farm laws and their repeal

Thousands of farmers had been holding sit-in demonstrations at the borders of the national Capital since November last year, demanding the repeal of the the three farm laws passed in the Parliament in September 2020.

The farmers were concerned about the new laws, which would have opened up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. The Centre, however, had claimed that the laws would give farmers more access to markets and boost production through private investment.

On November 19, on the occasion of Guru Parab, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the laws will be repealed.

On December 1, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the withdrawal of the laws after a Bill proposing their repeal was passed in Parliament during the Winter Session.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, had then called off the agitation.