They reject the Rs. 2,500-a-tonne government price

Sugarcane growers, who rejected the price of Rs. 2,500 a tonne fixed by the State government, have decided to challenge it in the High Court of Karnataka.

The growers also decided to continue their agitation to exert pressure on the government to raise the price to Rs. 3,500 per tonne.

A meeting of all farmers associations has been convened on November 15 to decide on the next course of agitation.

The former Minister Shashikant A. Naik and Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene leader Kalyan Rao Muchalambi said, “This (advisory price of Rs. 2,500 per tonne) is not acceptable to us.

“This is injustice and unscientific. The government has preferred to protect the interests of sugar mills at the expense of the hapless farmers.”

Nexus seen

Mr. Muchalambi said that the price announced by the government “has unmasked the unholy nexus between the sugar mills and the government”.

Agitations

The farmers, under the aegis of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Hasiru Sene, the Bharat Krishik Samaj (BKS), the National Farmers Organisation (NFO) and the Karnataka Rajya Kabbu Belagarara Sangh have been staging agitations, including rasta roko on national and inter-State highways, and roads leading to sugar factories in the sugarcane growing belts of Belgaum, Bagalkot, Dharwad and Bijapur districts of north Karnataka region since Tuesday.

Dharna

On Saturday, the farmers commenced an indefinite dharna in front of the residence of Minister for Sugar, Small Scale Industries and Muzrai Prakash B. Hukkeri at Tilakwadi in Belgaum. Similar protests were organised in other districts in the region, including a dharna in front of the residence of Minister for Medium and Major Irrigation and district in-charge M.B. Patil in Bijapur.

Justifying the demand for a higher price based on sugar recovery, starting at a minimum of Rs. 2,500 at 9.5 per cent sugar recovery and Rs. 220 for every one additional per cent, the leaders here said that the Union government had announced Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of Rs. 2,100 per tonne this year, which was Rs. 400 more than the FRP fixed for the preceding year. Also, while the sugar mills in northern India had offered Rs. 2,900 per tonne considering 9.5 per cent sugar recovery, the State government should fix a higher price considering the fact that sugar recovery in Belgaum, Bagalkot and Bijapur districts was 12 per cent to 13.5 per cent.

They said that due to the abolition of levy and the decision to allow free movement of sugar, to give relief in purchase tax and the withdrawal of 1 per cent VAT in the State, profits of factories would apparently go up.

But, the government was unwilling to consider these concessions.

To a question, they said: “If it is not possible for the factories to operate by paying higher price for sugarcane, let the government take over the factories . We will give all our property as collateral security to run a factory even after paying Rs. 3,500 per tonne to growers.”

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