‘In interest of farmers’, member Mann opts out of SC committee

BKU leader says ready to sacrifice any post so as not to compromise interests of farmers, protesting unions rigid on not participating in talks.

Bhupinder Singh Mann, a key farm union leader appointed by the Supreme Court to a panel it formed to scrutinise three contentious farms laws has declined to be on it, citing the “interests” of farmers.

Mann, a former MP and the national president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, a farm union, said he was “recusing” himself from a committee of four set by the Supreme Court to look into farmers’ grievances over the laws.

On January 12, the court stayed the laws that have prompted tens of thousands of farmers to stage a protest on the borders of Delhi. It also set up a committee to start a dialogue with protesting farmers, naming economists Ashok Kumar Gulati and PK Joshi as well as farm union leaders Anil Ghanwat and Mann as members.

The panel formed by the Supreme Court attracted public criticism because all four members had either endorsed the farm laws or suggested improvements in them previously. Protesting farm unions said such a committee was already biased in favour of the legislation.

“As a farmer myself and a union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farmers and public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as not to compromise the interests of Punjab and the farmers of the country,” Mann said in a press statement.

The Supreme Court had said on Monday that the panel must meet within 10 days.

Mann is the chairman of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee, a platform of farm unions that has supported the farm laws. Mann met Union farm minister Narendra Singh Tomar in December, urging him not to repeal the laws. This pit him against hundreds of other farm unions demanding a repeal.

An official of the agriculture ministry declined to comment on Mann’s move, saying this was a Supreme Court-monitored process.

Farm unions protesting the laws to open up agricultural markets said they were indifferent to Mann’s decision.

“Our stand is we will not take part in any consultations by the court-appointed committee because our only demand is the repeal of the laws,” said Darshan Pal, a senior member of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, the organisation leading the farmers’ protests.

Source: Hindustan Times

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