Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi has put Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in the dock, stopping just short of accusing him of hoodwinking the country on the drought situation and sugar stocks.
“The agriculture minister has abjectly failed to assess the gravity of the drought situation and the sugar stocks,’’ Chaturvedi charged.
Speaking as a “farmer and not a Congressman” at a function organised by the National Alliance of Farmers’ Association in the Capital, Chaturvedi said Pawar kept saying there was no possibility of a drought and then had to admit that the country was indeed facing that spectre.
Because Pawar had initially ruled out a drought, farmers across the country had put in crores of rupees of inputs into their land, he said. “Who will be responsible for farmers’ indebtedness?’’ he asked.
Similarly, he recalled that Pawar had ruled out sugar shortage and was now admitting to it.
Pawar had said on Tuesday there was no “sugar crisis” but there was a shortfall.
But the situation, alleged Chaturvedi, was further aggravated because there was hardly any increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for sugarcane.
“When the MSP for wheat and paddy was raised substantially, why wasn’t the same done for sugar cane?’’ he asked. Higher MSP for wheat and rice had diverted huge cane areas to foodgrains.
With imports suffering due to high international prices and demand set to go up as festival season nears, a crisis looms large. Elections are to be held in October in the three states of Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal and spiralling prices could spark voter fury.
Sugar stocks have hit the rock bottom, about 4.5 million tonnes or just enough to meet the demand until the upcoming festive season, a government official had told HT on Monday.
Reacting to Chaturvedi’s outburst, NCP spokesman DP Tripathi said: “If he (Chaturvedi) has criticised the minister, then action should be taken initiated against him for maligning the UPA government.”