Even as the Centre is re-working the controversial sugarcane pricing Bill, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh has threatened to stage a “chakka jam” (road-block) in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday if farmers do not get the right State-advised price for sugarcane.
Speaking to media persons here on Monday, Mr. Ajit Singh said the Government was removing from the proposed Bill a section which allows for millers sharing their profit with farmers and that this came to light at the all-party meeting called by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. “This will impact farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu who have requested us to ensure that the provision stays,” he said.
Therefore, the amended Bill restoring the provision for the State-advised price to be paid by millers could not be tabled in Parliament.
For further discussion, leaders of the sugar-producing States would separately meet Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday.
Without spelling out a price for sugarcane farmers, Mr. Ajit Singh said the Mayawati government in Lucknow announced a rate between Rs. 165 and 170 a quintal and the millers agreed to give Rs. 15 more taking the State-advised price to Rs. 180-185. “Compare this with Rs. 205-210 announced in Haryana and Rs. 210-230 that mills will give in Gujarat and Maharashtra,” he added.
Asked to mention a price for UP farmers, Mr. Ajit Singh said that when the price of sugar in the market was Rs. 16 a kg, farmers got Rs. 145 a quintal. Now when it was Rs. 40 a kg, they should get between Rs. 280 and 300 a quintal of sugarcane. “While we are not demanding that much, the price payable could be at par with Haryana,” he added.
Mr. Ajit Singh did not agree that a higher SAP would impact sugar prices in the open market, saying that now when the price was Rs. 40 a kg, farmers still did not get any price this season as mills in UP did not start crushing. So to say that the sugarcane price impacted prices was not correct. “Farmers got only Rs. 3 to 5 per kg for potato, for instance, whereas in retail markets potatoes are selling over Rs. 30 a kg. Where is the connection?’’
According to him, the right thing would be for the State government to facilitate meetings between the Sugarcane samitis and the millers and help them reach an agreement on a proper price for sugarcane this season. “The more this is delayed the more it will impact the sowing of wheat,” he said.
On the leakage of the Liberhan Commission Report in the media, he said, “It is obvious. It was to divert attention from the sugarcane issue and to divide the Opposition.”