New Delhi: Under a combined opposition
attack that stalled the Lok Sabha, government today promised
to amend the controversial sugarcane ordinance against which
growers from northern states converged here in protest.
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.
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.
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.
DMK, a key UPA ally, joined the demand for a review of the
ordinance as the opposition stalled proceedings in the Lok
Sabha on the issue leading to its adjournament on the first
day of the winter session.
With political temperatures rising on the issue, Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh said suitable amendment would be made
to the Ordinance if it went against interests of farmers.
"We will not do anything that goes against the farmers.
The government will look into the matter again and if it is in
the interest of farmers the Ordinance will be suitably
amended", Prime Minister told Rahul Gandhi who met him in the
backdrop of a massive farmers' agitation here.
The government's response came as a determined
opposition stepped up its agitation against the Ordinance
brought by the Centre and to press for withdrawal of uniform
price of sugarcane.
As main opposition BJP, Samajwadi Party, Left parties,
JD (U),JD (S), RJD and Rashtriya Lok Dal disrupted the
proceedings of the Lok Sabha, DMK, too, voiced its opposition
to the Ordinance.
The Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order 2009 Ordinance
has changed the sugarcane pricing policy, fixing a uniform
Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) which would put the burden
on states if they choose to pay more than FRP to farmers.
The Prime Minister's assurance came on a day of
hectic consultations in the government that saw senior cabinet
ministers P Chidambaram and M Veerapa Moily having detailed
discussion with Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on
the issue. The Prime Minister is also believed to have a word
with Pawar on the issue.
To hammer out a solution, government has invited leaders
of all political parties for a breakfast meeting on Monday
ahead of the sitting of Parliament.
The move by the government came close on the heels of
the meeting of the Business Advisory Committee of the Lok
The BAC meeting saw Deputy Leader of BJP Sushma Swaraj
telling the government that her party has no objection to the
ordinance brought out on the issue provided it is not used as
a "pretext to deprive farmers of their due".
"We are open for discussion on all issues,"
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal told reporters after
the BAC meeting.
Opposition leaders have meanwhile said they would
continue to stall Parliament on the issue tomorrow as the
deadlock may not be resolved by that time.
Outside Parliament, hundreds of sugarcane farmers from
western Uttar Pradesh today staged a demonstration here.
Holding sugarcane stems and shouting slogans, the farmers
marched from Ramlila grounds to Jantar Mantar, the dharna hotspot
in the capital, this morning.
First Published: Friday, November 20, 2009, 00:20