Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the Prime Minister invoked his powers to approve the proposed amended Bill before he left for the United States

The Union Food Ministry worked well beyond midnight on Friday to give shape to the amended proposed Bill that is to replace the Sugarcane Pricing Ordinance which was opposed by farmers, backed by Opposition parties.

Sharing this information with journalists here on the sidelines of an international conference on wheat, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the Prime Minister invoked his powers to approve the proposed amended Bill before he left for the United States.

“He must have cleared it by now,” he told journalists around noon. The Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament on Monday.

The Bill will amend the Essential Commodities (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2009 as well as the Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order, 2009 to remove the provision stating that the State governments declaring State Advised Price (SAP) for sugarcane, will also bear the additional expenditure in the price of levy sugar payable to mills in those States and to farmers.

Mr. Pawar, who was under attack from Opposition parties on the sugarcane pricing policy, said some people wanted complete scrapping of the ordinance, which in effect, would have helped mill owners.

“Certain sections were pressing for complete withdrawal of the sugarcane ordinance, which would have resulted in a windfall of Rs. 14,000 crore for the sugar mills at the cost of the Central exchequer. Who were they helping? Certainly not the farmers,” he said.

The government had, through the ordinance, brought in a Validation Act that said the calculation of levy sugar price to be paid to millers by the Centre will be based on the minimum price and therefore, the court order based on SAP was negated, saving the government a burden of Rs 14,000 crore. However, by deleting 3B from the Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order, 2009 and restoring the SAP, the financial burden on the Centre for payment of levy price to millers on the basis of SAP for future years may stand.

“The Bill, which we were thinking of introducing and getting cleared, was to protect the interest of the farmers vis-À-vis the millers. The Fair and Remunerative Price [FRP] is a benchmark price. It is the minimum that millers have to pay,” Mr. Pawar said.

On a lighter note, when Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Minister Laxmi Narayan was asked about the cane price that the State government will now give to the farmers, he said, “Sharad Pawarji is the sugarcane king. Ask him.”

Referring to the massive farmers’ rally in the Capital on Thursday Mr. Pawar quipped, “I don’t know where the sugarcane growers have gone? Some people say it was Rahul Gandhi, some say it is Ajit Singh [who influenced the decision to amend the sugarcane pricing policy].”

More In: National | News