Sugar prices lead to bitter start for parliament (Second Lead)

November 19th, 2009 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Meira Kumar New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) The winter session of parliament got off to a chaotic start Thursday with the Lok Sabha being adjourned for the day as the entire opposition united to stage noisy protests against the new sugarcane pricing policy of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
The house was first adjourned till 12 noon when opposition members, led by Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, gathered near Speaker Meira Kumar’s podium protesting the government’s low sugarcane prices.

As soon as the house resumed at 12, the same scenes were repeated with opposition MPs creating a ruckus and shouting slogans like “kisanon ka loot band karo” (stop looting farmers).

All opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), joined in the protest spearheaded by the SP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh.

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

BJP leader Arjun Munda added that the opposition would not allow the house to function till the government rolled 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 over the issue.

As the opposition members protested noisily, UPA constituent DMK also came out 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,” Baalu said.

He, however, said the DMK would not join the opposition to disrupt the house proceedings. “Our reservation over the issue will be raised at appropriate forums.”

Opposition MPs started the uproar in the morning soon after three new members of the house took oath of office — nominated Anglo Indian members Charles Dias and Ingrid McLeod as well as Congress’ Raj Babbar who has been elected from Firozabad.

There were obituary references to nine former members. The speaker also condemned the recent brutal Maoist attacks in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli and Chhattisgarh’s Bastar regions.

Besides, the house also condoled the deaths of the people in railway accidents and in the boat accident in Kerala’s Thekkady lake in which 45 people were killed.

The protest over sugarcane prices coincides with farmers from Uttar Pradesh gathering here to march from Ramlila Ground to parliament.

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.

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.

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