Critical of the Central and Uttar Pradesh government’s decisions on the procurement price of sugarcane, Samajwadi Party (SP) president Mulayam Singh on Monday demanded Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s resignation, if he considered himself to be a farmers’ leader.

He also demanded an apology to the farmers from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and accused the Centre and the State of looting the farmers’ produce.

Mr. Singh announced that the SP would support the sugarcane farmers’ agitation on the price issue, to begin on November 15 when party cadres would take to the streets demanding justice for the farmers.

He told journalists that the cane growers should be paid Rs.300 per quintal. A bigger agitation would be launched if the farmers’ grievances were not redressed by that time.

‘FRP insufficient’

Stating that the fair and remunerative price (FRP) of Rs.129.84 per quintal of cane fixed by the Centre was insufficient, Mr. Singh said Mr. Pawar styled himself as a leader of the farmers and had till date done nothing wrong for the growers. But of late, it appeared as if he was only interested in saving his chair, Mr. Singh said. The FRP was less than the cost of production of a quintal of sugarcane, he added.

Mr. Singh also rejected the State advised price (SAP) of Rs.170, Rs.165 and Rs.162.50 for the three varieties of cane announced recently by the State government, saying that the Centre, Ms. Mayawati, and some sugar mill owners had mortgaged the farmers’ interests.

Adding that wheat and potato growers were also a dejected lot, Mr. Singh demanded that the procurement price for wheat should be fixed at Rs.1,500 per quintal and the poor should get the commodity at cheap rates. He said prices had gone up by 14 per cent and added that both farmers and consumers were being cheated by the Centre and the State.

Understanding with RLD

Without committing himself on joining the agitation led by the Rashtriya Lok Dal in support of sugarcane growers in western U.P., Mr. Singh said the two parties would support each other on common issues. “The RLD’s strength is in western U.P. whereas the SP is spread across the State,” he said. The two parties came together on a common platform in last week’s Lok Sabha by-election in Firozabad.