Sanghatna leader Raju Shetty threatens to go on an indefinite fast
The crisis over sugarcane prices after the agitation by farmers at Baramati worsened further after Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna leader Raju Shetty threatened to go on an indefinite fast. Mr. Shetty, who led a six-day padayatra from Pandharpur reached Baramati, the hometown of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, on Monday and announced that he would not leave the place until the demands of farmers were met.
Sugarcane farmers are demanding a first instalment of Rs. 2,350 (per tonne) and a final rate of Rs. 2,700 for their produce, a demand the government has rejected despite several deliberations between the two parties. Mr. Shetty, while addressing a rally of farmers in Baramati, asked Mr. Pawar to immediately intervene and resolve the issue. “Mr. Pawar, till you don't take a final decision on our demands, I am not going to eat anything, and will not leave this place,” Mr. Shetty said.
Mr. Shetty expressed his confidence in Mr. Pawar, while targeting his nephew Ajit Pawar for his adamant attitude of not heeding the agitators' demands.
He reiterated the farmers' grouse that the input costs had been wrongly calculated by the Government.
“The cost of labour has been cited as Rs. 73 a day whereas the farmer has to pay at least Rs. 126, according to the Minimum Wages Act,” he said.
The cost of chemical fertilizers, water, and electricity have escalated since last year, Mr. Shetty said.
This year, the first advance fixed as Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP), as declared by the State Government, is Rs. 1,450 (per tonne) which is lower than the final rate of Rs. 2,000 that the farmers got last year.
Meanwhile, reacting to farmers' agitation, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said here that only demands based on pragmatism could be considered.
“The problem cannot be solved if the demands are illogical,” he said while stating that the government was open to deliberations. According to Mr. Chavan, the Department of Cooperation along with the sugar federation was in discussion with the agitators to resolve the issue.
Mr. Chavan said farmers could be paid more only if sugar prices increased. “I have demanded from the Centre that the ban on sugar export be lifted. Export of 20 lakh tonnes of sugar should be allowed,” Mr. Chavan said.
Farmers on November 2 began their padayatra from Pandharpur.
The sugarcane crushing season, which started earlier last month, has still not picked up momentum because of the agitation.
In an attempt to resolve the issues, Minister for Cooperation Harshavardhan Patil had declared that the onus of payment to farmers was on sugar factories.
The farmers would be given first advance according to the FRP, and the second advance would be paid according to the affordability of the sugar factories, he had said.