Sugar prices force three adjournments of Rajya Sabha (Second Lead)

New Delhi, Nov 20 ( A united opposition forced three adjournments of the Rajya Sabha Friday, the last one for the day, as it vociferously protested the United Progressive Alliance’s new sugar pricing policy.

However, Chairman Hamid Ansari managed to push through the business listed for the day before adjourning the house to meet at 11 a.m. on Monday.

Friday was the first full working day of the Rajya Sabha’s winter session, having adjourned on the opening day Thursday after obituary references to three former members and late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

The trouble began immediately after the house assembled Friday when Samajwadi Party MPs raised slogans against the new sugarcane pricing policy with party leader Amar Singh advancing to the well of the house.

However, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP S.S. Ahluwalia prevailed upon them to let nominated member H.K. Dua take his oath of office.

The MPs resumed their protest thereafter, refusing to heed to Ansari’s appeals for calm. At 11.04 a.m., Ansari adjourned the house for 15 minutes.

Attendance on the treasury benches at the time was extremely thin, with only Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Sports Minister M.S. Gill being the only ministers present.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan and his counterpart in the railway minister E. Ahamed walked in just before the house resumed at 11.19 a.m. with the opposition protests continuing.

An exasperated Ansari said: “Please let me speak for two minutes. I have received a notice from the leader of the opposition that the question hour be suspended. The issue (sugar prices) is listed for a short duration discussion. We will take it up at the appropriate time.”

This did not satisfy the opposition, which continued with its slogan shouting and Ansari, at 11.21 a.m., adjourned the house till 12 noon.

By that time, both Pawar and Gill had left the house and ministers of state Chavan, as also P. Purandeshwari (human resource development), Ajay Maken (home) and V. Narayanswamy (parliamentary affairs) were the only government representatives on the treasury benches.

In the midst of continuing protests, Ansari called for papers to be laid and 10 minutes later, adjourned the house for the day.

The central government has announced a price of Rs.129.85 per quintal for sugarcane during the 2009-10 crushing season under the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) system, while the Uttar Pradesh State Advisory Price (SAP) has been set between Rs.165 and Rs.170 per quintal.

In case a state government fixes SAP higher than the FRP, it will have to pay the difference.

Farmers want Rs.280 per quintal for their produce.

On Thursday, cane farmers from Uttaar Pradesh had marched from the Ramlila Ground to parliament to protest the new pricing policy.

Their leader, Rashtriya Lok Dal MP Ajit Singh, said: “Sugarcane farming in Uttar Pradesh is dependent 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.