Worried over the agitation, the state cabinet on Wednesday set up a committee under cooperatives minister Harshwardhan Patil to discuss and arrive at a rate for sugarcane procurement that would acceptable to the farmers.
Peasant leader and independent member of parliament (MP), Raju Shetti, had started his fast from Baramati on Monday. Led by Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana, Shetti had called for a boycott on sugar factories unless they pay Rs2,350 for every tonne of sugarcane. The Centre had announced that fair price stands at Rs1,750 per tonne. According to sugar cooperatives, offering an advance of Rs2,350 per tonne was not viable as prices of sugar in the market hovered around Rs2,500. The agitation led to a shutdown of sugar factories that were to open for crushing this week.
Patil will hold the first round of talks with Shetti at Pune. According to him, the government is keen on ending the agitation peacefully. The move comes in the wake of the upcoming elections, owing to which the government does not want to upset the farmers, the main voter base for both Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). To seek a “practical solution”, NCP MP and daughter of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, too paid a visit to Shetti on Wednesday. “All of us want a solution to the crisis. We all want what is best for the farmers and don’t want our sugarcanes to go dry,” she said.
At the cabinet meet, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar alleged that Patil — political rival of Ajit Pawar — has been provoking Shetti to harden his stance. According to sources, home minister RR Patil raised concerns over the farmers’ stir hinting that it could lead to law and order problems. “He cited the Maval incident where such a stir became huge and the responsibility of maintaining law and order came on to the police. He said it would be better if the issue was discussed across the table and farmers were given a fair share,” said a Congress minister.