By Babajide Okeowo
India’s Supreme Court, on Tuesday, ordered an indefinite stay on the implementation of new agricultural laws by the government that had triggered widespread protests from farmers.
For more than a month, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital, to protest against reform measures that they say benefitted large private buyers and home growers.
Delivering a ruling, Chief Justice Sharad Bobde ordered an indefinite stoppage of the implementation of the farm laws by the Indian government.
He also held that the Supreme Court would set up a panel to hear the farmers’ grievances, to protect them.
“We have the power to make a committee and the committee can give us the report, we will protect farmers,” he said, ordering the stay for an undisclosed period on the laws passed in September.
There were no immediate further details.
“We are grateful to the Supreme Court for its positive response,” said Rakesh Tikait, president of one of the largest farmers unions, Bharti Kisan Union.
“The protests will continue until demands are met.”
Farm leaders said their demand for a full repeal of the laws remained unchanged.
The Indian government had insisted that the laws aimed to modernise an antiquated farming system, bedevilled by wastage and bottlenecks in the supply chain.
But farm leaders said the reforms were an attempt to erode a longstanding mechanism that ensured farmers a minimum support price for their crops.
Eight rounds of talks failed to find a common ground, as government insisted that there was no question of dropping the reforms.
The two sides are set to meet again on Friday.