By Mohammad Ghazali
Bhartiya Kisan Union’s national president Bhupinder Singh Mann has stepped down from the Supreme Court-appointed committee to look into the Centre’s contentious farm laws, saying he did not wish to “compromise farmers’ interests”. His decision came a day ahead of the next round of talks between the government and the farmers. The matter will now go back to the court for further orders.
A statement from Mr Mann today read: “As a farmer myself and a Union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst farm unions and the 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 farmers of the country.”
Bhupinder Mann, who heads his own faction of the BKU, was part of the four-member committee formed by the top court on Tuesday to begin a dialogue with the farmers and the government and suggest a solution to the 50-day protest continuing on the borders of the national capital. Farmers’ groups, however, had rejected the committee, saying their members were already in favour of farm laws and accused the government of engineering the issue.
Mr Mann is one of the few farm union leaders to have come out in support of the Centre’s new farm laws. He was part of a group of farmers that met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar in December.
“Bhupender Mann’s organisation BKU sacked him that’s why he has resigned. He used his position for political mileage,” said Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, a member of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha.
The protesting farmers, he said, are seeing the resignation as a “small victory” as it has “discredited the committee formed by the Supreme Court”.
Besides Mr Mann, the committee included Dr Parmod Kumar Joshi, an agricultural economist who is also the Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and Anil Ghanwat, the chief of Shetkari Sanghatana, who in articles written in the media have expressed views in favour of the farm laws.
Mr Mann was given a Rajya Sabha seat by the VP Singh government in 1990 at a time when farmers’ protests were banned in Punjab. Mann’s decision to accept the offer led to a split in the BKU.
His son, Gurpratap Singh Mann, is a member of the Congress party and the party’s government in Punjab made him member of the Punjab Public Services Commission. ( NDTV )