Opposition corners government over sugarcane pricing, Lok Sabha adjourned (Third Lead)

New Delhi, Nov 19 (Inditop.com) The row over the government’s sugarcane pricing policy forced adjournment of the Lok Sabha on the opening day of parliament’s winter session Thursday as opposition members created a ruckus demanding higher rates for farmers. Outside parliament, thousands of farmers held a protest, paralysing key Delhi roads and forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to review the pricing ordinance.

As slogan-shouting farmers from Uttar Pradesh gathered in the capital, traffic on all roads leading to Jantar Mantar, the 17th century observatory in the heart of the capital, came to a standstill.

Inside the Lok Sabha, all parliamentary work also came to standstill as opposition members raised slogans and demanded fair sugarcane price for farmers. Speaker Meira Kumar first adjourned the house till noon after a group of MPs led by Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and former agriculture minister Ajit Singh (Rashtriya Lok Dal) gathered near her podium protesting the government’s low sugarcane prices.

Farmers are protesting the government proposal to table an amendment that will raise the sugarcane prices from about Rs.108 to Rs.129.85 per quintal. They say this is insufficient compared to the rise in sugar prices. They are demanding Rs.280 per quintal for their produce.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supported the protest, shouting slogans like “Kisanon ki loot band karo” (Stop looting the farmers).

“This is loot. It is like eliminating sugarcane farmers,” Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh told reporters after the house was adjourned for the day.

“The ordinance is tilted in favour of industrialists. I will charge the agriculture minister (Sharad Pawar) and (prime minister) Manmohan Singh with looting farmers. It will only help mill owners,” Amar Singh said.

BJP leader Arjun Munda said that the opposition will not allow the house to function till the government rolls back its sugarcane policy.

“We will force adjournments till the government withdraws the sugarcane ordinance, which in all likelihood will put the burden on poor farmers,” Munda said, criticising Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s “silence” on the issue.

As the opposition members protested noisily, UPA constituent DMK also spoke against the government.

DMK’s leader of the house T.R. Baalu said the government should have taken states into confidence before coming up with the ordinance. “We are opposing it and demand a structured discussion.”

Ajit Singh said: “Sugarcane farming in Uttar Pradesh is dependant totally on diesel and the price of diesel is touching the sky. In such a scenario, if the farmers do not get an adequate price for their produce, the agitation is completely justified.”

“Uttar Pradesh provides 40 percent of the total sugar in the country,” he added.

Outside the parliament, holding sugarcane sticks farmers from Uttar Pradesh, the second-biggest sugar producing state of India, threatened to burn their crop and withhold the supply of sugarcane to mills unless they are paid higher rates for their crop.

All opposition parties joined in the farmers’ protest rally which was addressed by Ajit Singh, BJP’s Arun Jaitley and Munde and RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad.

“Look at the sugar prices. Last year, sugar was Rs.15 a kg and today it is Rs.40. Unless we are not given what is due to us, we won’t supply our crop to mills. It is better to burn the crop than selling it at low costs,” a farmer, Satyavir Singh from Chindori Uttar Pradesh, told IANS.

“We won’t leave the capital till the government assures us about the rates. We want Rs.280 per quintal,” the farmer said.

Faced with the strong protest, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held an emergency meeting on the issue with senior cabinet colleagues. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Home Minister P. Chidambaram attended the meeting at Parliament House.

Asked about the decision taken at the meeting, the ministers did not disclose anything. The decision taken at the meeting is likely to be placed before the cabinet later.