The stayed laws were passed in September and liberalise the agricultural market. Farmers were previously required to sell their crops to state marketing boards at a fixed price. According to the growers, the new rules would leave them worse off, making it easier for companies to exploit workers and help large companies cut prices.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Indian Supreme Court has put on hold three controversial farm laws until further notice, after months of massive nationwide protests by farmers who claim that their livelihoods are at stake.
In an order issued yesterday, the court said the decision to stay the laws “may assuage the hurt feelings of farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith.”
The court also set up a four-member mediation committee to help the parties negotiate. The latter must meet within 10 days and submit its first report within two months of that meeting.
The suspended laws were passed in September.
For decades, the Indian government has offered guaranteed prices to farmers for certain crops, providing long-term stability that allows them to make investments for the next crop cycle.
The new legislation liberalises the agricultural market, allowing Indian farmers to sell to anyone at any price, instead of being required to sell their crops to state marketing boards at a fixed price.
Growers – especially smallholders – argue that the new rules would leave them worse off, making it easier for companies to exploit farm workers and helping large companies cut prices.
More than 100,000 people have protested against the laws since late November. For days, sit-ins have blocked New Delhi's three access routes, with protesters sometimes clashing with police.
Meanwhile, the government has held eight rounds of talks with the leaders of more than 30 farmer unions, with little success.
The stalemate prompted the Supreme Court to say that a floor price, a major point of friction between the government and farmers, will be maintained until further notice.
India’s Attorney General criticised the Supreme Court order, saying it “opposed vehemently” any interim stay.
The laws have been so controversial because farming is the main source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India's 1.3 billion people, and farmers have been asking for years to raise the guaranteed minimum prices.
Farmers are the country’s largest electoral, which makes agriculture a central political and policy issue.