more than 100,000 people have been protesting
India’s Supreme Court has put three controversial farm laws on hold until further notice, following months of nationwide protests by farmers who claim that their livelihoods are at stake.
The order was issued on January 12, 2021, and the court said that the decision to suspend the laws “may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith.”
The Indian Agriculture Acts of 2020 were passed in September 2020.
For decades, the Indian Government has offered guaranteed prices to farmers for certain crops, providing them long-term certainty that allows them to make investments for the next crop cycle.
The new laws instead allowed farmers to sell their goods to anyone for any price, giving them more freedom to do things such as sell directly to buyers and sell to other states.
However, farmers have alleged that the new rules would not benefit them as it would be easier for corporations to exploit them, and help big companies drive down prices.
While farmers could sell crops at higher prices if the demand is there, they could also struggle to meet the minimum price in years when there is too much supply in the market.
Since late November 2020, more than 100,000 people have been protesting the laws.
Farmers have blocked roads and set up camps, with some protestors sleeping in their tractors or on the road.
While the protests have been largely peaceful, there have been some clashes with police.
The government has held eight rounds of talks with the leaders of over 30 farmers’ unions that are against the laws, but the talks did not reach a solution.
This prompted the Supreme Court to suspend the laws and order the formation of a four-member mediation committee to help the parties negotiate in a “congenial atmosphere”.
The committee must meet within 10 days and submit its first report within two months of that meeting.
The Supreme Court also said that the minimum support price protection would be maintained until further orders.
Under the court order, “no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws”.
However, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella group representing the farmers’ unions, has stated it would not participate in any court-appointed mediation.
It stated this point after the new order was issued.
Farmers’ leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said: “This is the mischief of the government that they want to relieve pressure from their shoulders so they have asked for this Supreme Court committee, to which we are opposed.
He added that the committee members are pro-government.
The attorney general representing the government in the matter also criticised the Supreme Court order, saying they “opposed vehemently” any interim stay.