SC to Centre: Let farmers harvest Rabi crop without police harassment

April 15, 2020
New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Wednesday recorded the Centres undertaking that it would take measures to provide wide-ranging exemptions to farmers and farm workers to carry out activities connected with harvesting of the Rabi crop.

A plea was filed by Professor Trilochan Sastry seeking issuance of directions to the Union for enabling immediate movement of requisite labour across districts /states to be available in time for harvest of Rabi crops and sowing of Kharif crops at various locations.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended before a bench of Justices N V Ramana, S K Kaul and B R Gavai that the Centre is closely monitoring the implementation of its notification giving exemption to farmers from lockdown restrictions. Mehta submitted that the Centre was also cognizant of the difficulties faced by the agricultural sector and they are taking constant measures to ease the situation, including further guidelines.

The top court directed the Centre that the suggestions made in the present petition , including any material the petitioner may wish to add , be taken into account before the issuance of further guidelines.

The court observed that it was aware of the various problems being faced by farmers and the agricultural sector, and stressed on the necessity to find solutions to these problems in these difficult circumstances. “It further observed that it had seen from reports that certain measures were already being taken by the states in order to tackle the problem of labour shortfall”, said the court.

The petitioner represented by advocate Nikhil Nayyar, argued that a total of 662.13 lakh hectares was reported as sown with various rabi crops in the 2019-20 Rabi season – to be harvested in April/May 2020. But migrant labour from cities – who typically work as farm labourers in rural India during the rabi harvesting season, have not been allowed to get to their destinations, thereby creating a gruelling shortage of labour.

In another plea activist Swami Agnivesh complained that police were harassing farmers. Mehta said the Centre is taking all the necessary steps to remove difficulty for farmers, but pleas by activists restrict officers from doing their work. This was the second plea by Agnivesh.

Professor Sastry also argued that many leading companies in the organised foods industry have been noting disruptions in their supply and distribution chains, and that their factories are working with severely reduced manpower. However, due to such shortage of labour, the entire purpose behind granting exemption of farming related activities during the lockdown period fails as essential economic activities are unable to reach normalcy.

The court disposed of the petition after Mehta contended that the guidelines will be implemented and it will be ensured the police would also follow them. IANS