More farmers join the dharna on Parliament Street; They will march in procession on Thursday and hold a rally at Jantar Mantar

In a formidable show of strength, farmers belonging to various organisations have begun to pour into the Capital to lodge their protest on the opening day of the winter session of Parliament here on Thursday against the Centre’s Fair and Remunerative Pricing (FRP) system for sugarcane that discourages States from fixing a higher cane price.

Led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the farmers have decided to ‘gherao’ Parliament House and court arrest if they are stopped in the high security zone.

RLD leader Ajit Singh had announced that Parliament would not be allowed to function unless the issue was resolved. The Bharatiya Janata Party will move an adjournment motion on day one to protest the Sugar Control Amendment Order 2009 that introduced the FRP system through an ordinance.

The All-India Bhartiya Kisan Union activists, led by Mahendra Singh Tikait, continued with their dharna on Parliament Street here even as more farmers from Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand joined them.

“No other government has brought such a black law against farmers as the United Progressive Alliance,” Mr Ajit Singh told journalists after a meeting of the National Alliance of Farmers’ Associations. All major Opposition parties he was in touch with had conveyed their solidarity on the issue. Lok Jan Shakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik expressed their opposition to the ordinance, Mr. Singh told The Hindu.

Swabhiman Party MP from Kolhapur, Raju Shetti, said the problem with FRP was not so much this year, when there was a cane shortage. But it was in surplus years that the farmers would suffer. In Maharashtra, farmers were getting between Rs.190 and Rs. 230 a quintal for a 12 per cent recovery in the first instalment, whereas the Centre’s FRP price was Rs.129.84 a quintal for 9.5 per cent recovery.

B.H. Thambake, president of the Karnataka Ryot Sangha, said Karnataka farmers were getting Rs.210 a quintal this season.

A memorandum was presented to President Pratibha Patil requesting her to withdraw the ordinance and restore the right of State governments to fix State Advised Price (SAP) for sugarcane based on local conditions.

At a separate press conference, secretary-general of Confederation of Indian Farmers Association’s National Sugarcane Commodity Council P. Chengal Reddy expressed his solidarity with the farmers. He demanded that the support price for sugarcane for this season be set at Rs.295 a quintal for farm gate delivery. This was in conformity with the system suggested by the National Commission on Farmers and with the recent increase in labour and input prices.

Mr. Reddy demanded that the report of the National Commission on Farmers be implemented immediately.

The farmers will march from the Ramlila Grounds on Thursday and hold a rally at Jantar Mantar. The protest is against the Centre’s FRP for cane which is lower than the SAP that the farmers received last year. Now, if the States want to give cane to farmers at a higher price, they will have to bear the burden. Not the millers as in the past.