They will settle for Rs.2,650 per quintal so as to allow crushing to resume

Farmers under the leadership of MP and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetty withdrew their protest for higher sugarcane prices prematurely on Friday. Announcing the decision at a press conference in Sangli, Mr. Shetty stated that the farmers have reduced their demand for the first advance, and that the ball is now in the government’s court.

“We have made this decision after a well-thought-out meeting with all the farmers. We do not want to delay the crushing process. But now the government and factory owners should act responsibly,” Mr. Shetty said, withdrawing a two-day Bandh.

The farmers had earlier demanded Rs.3,000 per tonne of sugarcane. They have now reduced it to Rs.2,650. Last year, most farmers got Rs.2,500 as the first advance, said Mr. Shetty. Challenging the government, the SSS leader said: “Our farmers will not accept anything less than this. Either give us what we deserve or take our cane for free.”

If their demand is not met, farmers will protest again on January 1, said Mr. Shetty. He said they farmers were willing to withdraw their democratic right to protest as a sign of compromise.

The development comes even as the three-member committee set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet to announce any decision. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is expected to announce a national level policy on sugarcane on December 6.

Blaming the government for its inaction, Mr. Shetty said, “Last year, nobody intervened even after two farmers lost their lives while protesting. We do not want things to take a violent turn this year.”

FRP plus tips

While the government announces a Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP), factory owners generally pay farmers more according to their discretion and capacity. However, in the last three years, there have been violent protests as farmers have rejected factory owners’ prices. “The factory owners can declare what they can give and the government can add the remaining amount if they care for farmers,” Mr. Shetty said.

The last two days witnessed violent protests across Western Maharashtra, as farmers took to the streets and blocked the Mumbai-Bangalore National Highway. Mr. Shetty, however, blamed political forces for the protests turning violent. He pointed at Maharashtra’s Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil for having incited violence. “Farmers were calm, but it was Mr. Patil’s followers who vandalised buses on his orders,” he stated.

Correction

>>In “Sugarcane farmers climb down” (Nov. 30. 2013), the rate sought by the farmers was given as Rs. 2,650 a quintal. It should have been tonne.