New Delhi: The Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Thursday yielded to a protest by a united opposition against its new sugar cane pricing policy and promised an all-party meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.
The Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order 2009, an ordinance passed in October, has changed the government’s sugar cane pricing policy by fixing a uniform price, which would financially burden the states should they announce prices that are higher than the Centrally fixed price. Earlier, the sugar mills paid the difference.
The opposition, led by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Rajnath Singh, protested the move in the Lok Sabha. Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House.
“We are ready for a talk if the anti-farmer component of the ordinance is removed,” said BJP’s Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
After the opposition’s protest and a demonstration by farmers in front of Parliament, which was attended by almost all non-UPA parties except the Bahujan Samaj Party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called a meeting that included finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P. Chidambaram and law minister Veerappa Moily. A separate meeting was held in the agriculture ministry later in the day.
“We are open for discussion on all issues,” parliamentary affairs minister P.K. Bansal told reporters in the evening.
The opposition is also demanding that the government stop imports of sugar from Brazil, claiming it is against the interest of farmers.
United front: RLD president Ajit Singh (left) with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav at a farmers’ rally in New Delhi. Shabaz Khan / PTI
UPA ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Trinamool Congress supported the opposition. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi met Manmohan Singh in the afternoon to discuss the situation.
“We demand at least Rs250 (per 100kg) as the cane price,” said Anil Singh, secretary of the National Alliance of Farmers’ Associations.
Protesting farmers had threatened during their demonstration on Thursday that they would burn their produce unless mills double last season’s price of Rs140 per 100kg.