Millions of farmers oppose the changes. The Supreme Court appoints a committee to mediate between farmers and the government. Farmers’ unions plan to continue protest until the new laws are scrapped. For Bishop Vadakumthala, the country is being sold off to large multinationals.
Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s Supreme Court today put on hold a controversial farm reform that has sparked protests by hundreds of thousands of farmers, who have been camped for weeks on the outskirts of the capital.
The Court also appointed a committee to look into the farmers’ grievances and broker a deal between the government and their unions.
The government has reacted, challenging the legal arguments used to suspend its legislation.
Protesters who set up their camps and blocked several highways on the outskirts of Delhi have caused major traffic problems for the city and factories located in the area.
Farmers are planning a major rally for Republic Day, 26 January, that includes driving their tractors on city streets. The Supreme Court will decide next Monday whether to authorise the protest.
Adopted in September, the reform laws open up the agricultural market, allowing Indian farmers to sell to anyone at any price, instead of being required to sell their crops to the state at a fixed price.
Small farm holders want the reform reversed and the old system of government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis with assured floor prices re-instated.
Farm leaders have rejected the government's proposal to change some parts of the reform. They said that the stay of implementation by the Supreme Court will not stop their protests.
Their goal is for the reform to be scrapped altogether and their produce be assured a floor price. Farmers fear that under the new rules agrobusinesses will monopolise the market and impose more competitive prices.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the reform, saying it will bring great benefits to tens of millions of growers.
Government supporters note that the legislation does not dismantle government-controlled wholesale markets, nor does it eliminate the floor price.
Bishop Alex Vadakumthala of Kannur (Kerala), chair of the Commission for Labour of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that Catholics back farmers.
“Our traditional slogan is ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer, but today the country has forgotten its farmers. They are out there in the cold fighting for their rights. It is truly sad and surprising to see the government ignoring them.”
According to Bishop Vadakumthala, the reform seriously hurts small farmers. “It is as if India and its resources are about to be sold off to multinationals, with the rich getting richer in an obscene way and the poor getting poorer.”