Farmers lay siege to Delhi to protest sugarcane prices (Lead)

November 19th, 2009 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) Shouting slogans and paralysing key roads as they marched in protest, thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh gathered in the capital Thursday to force the government to rethink the new pricing policy for sugarcane.
Traffic on all roads leading to Jantar Mantar, the 17th century observatory in the heart of the capital, came to a standstill as the farmers marched from Ramlila Grounds in Old Delhi.

“Traffic is progressing slowly at Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Mandi House, Jantar Mantar, New Delhi Railway Station and the Ghazipur border,” a traffic police official said.

The rally was backed by various political parties and included protesters from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Bhartiya Kisan Union Tikait and Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan.

“The Indian government’s ordinance (on sugarcane pricing) is anti-farmer. There can be no compromise on this. The fight will go on till the ordinance is withdrawn. Sugar prices have skyrocketed but farmers are not getting their dues,” said Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and former union rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad.

Other political leaders also gathered at Jantar Mantar to address the farmers.

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

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was represented by its Maharashtra MP Gopinath Munde who said: “This (ordinance) is to support mills. Farmers will stop sowing sugarcane. Pawar is the agriculture minister so he should help farmers but he is supporting mill owners.”

Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, who led the farmers’ protest in the capital, 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.”

The central government has announced 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.

A farmer said: “We will fight for our rights till the end. If we don’t get the right price for our crop, we will make sure no grain comes to Delhi and block all incoming vehicles carrying milk, vegetables and grains.”

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