In an order issued Tuesday, the court said the decision to suspend the laws “could soften farmers’ hurt feelings and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith”.
The laws were first passed in September. For decades, the Indian government has offered farmers guaranteed prices for certain crops, providing long-term security that allows them to invest in the next crop cycle. The new laws, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, instead allowed farmers to sell their goods to anyone at any cost – giving them more freedom to do things like sell directly to buyers and sell to other countries.
But farmers said the new rules would make them worse, making it easier for corporations to exploit agricultural workers and helping big companies cut prices. While farmers could sell crops at higher prices if demand is present, conversely, they could struggle to reach the minimum price in years when there is too much supply in the market.
Since the end of November, more than 1
There were days-long meetings at each of New Delhi’s three borders. Farmers have blocked roads and set up makeshift camps, some sleeping on the road or in their tractors. They came from many different countries to take part in mass protests, sometimes clashing with police.
Throughout, the government held eight rounds of talks with leaders of more than 30 farmers’ unions who are against the law, but the talks did not go anywhere.
The stalemate prompted the Supreme Court to suspend the laws on Tuesday and order the formation of a four-member mediation committee to help the parties negotiate in a “favorable atmosphere”. The Mediation Committee must meet within 10 days and present its first report within two months of this meeting, as required.
The court also said on Tuesday that the minimum protection of support prices would be maintained until further orders – one of the main points of friction between the government and farmers. According to the court order, “no farmer may be deprived or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the laws of agricultural holdings”.
The umbrella group representing farmers’ unions, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, has repeatedly stated that it will not take part in any court-appointed mediation – and repeated the point after the new order was issued.
“It is the government’s mischief that they want to ease the pressure from their shoulders, so they have asked this committee of the Supreme Court, which we oppose,” agricultural leader Balbir Singh Rajaval told a news conference on Tuesday, adding that members of the commission are pro-government.
The Attorney General, representing the government on the issue, also criticized the Supreme Court’s order, saying they “vehemently oppose” any temporary stay.
The laws are so controversial because agriculture is the main source of livelihood for about 58% of India’s 1.3 billion population, and farmers have been arguing for years about raising minimum guaranteed prices. They are the largest electoral bloc in the country – making agriculture a major political issue.