M A I N   N E W S

Cane standoff ends after govt relents
Promises amended Bill; Parliament adjourned till Monday
Faraz Ahmad, Girija Shankar Kaura and Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 20
Having won a major battle against the government on the contentious sugar issue, the Opposition today happily agreed to support an amended Bill to prevent the Centre from paying Rs 14,000 crore to the sugar mill owners.

The government, which had earlier offered an all-party meeting by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue on Monday to thrash out a consensus, fast-forwarded the whole process and held it this afternoon.

Pranab along with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar first met the floor leaders of all parties in the Lok Sabha at 2 pm and then followed it up with a similar meeting of Rajya Sabha leaders at 2.30 pm.

But this did not happen before the government realised the significance of sugar as a potent weapon, which virtually united all the non-Congress, NCP parties under one umbrella. As a result, both Houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day when members stalled proceedings insisting upon moving an adjournment motion to discuss the sugar issue.

In the Rajya Sabha, members of the Samajwadi Party (SP), led by its general secretary, walked into the Well of the House stalling even the swearing in of the nominated member HK Dua. But then, BJP deputy leader SS Ahluwalia prevailed upon them and they briefly resumed their seats to allow the swearing in after which the agitation resumed, leading to multiple adjournments following which the Chairman adjourned the House till Monday.

In the Lok Sabha, the Opposition disrupted proceedings after Speaker Meira Kumar rejected their adjournment motions on sugar and suspension of Question Hour. Significantly, BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi and CPM leader in the House Basudeb Acharia jointly moved the motion.

The Lok Sabha also saw Opposition members storming the Well, forcing the first adjournment till 12 noon and then after a few more hiccups, the adjournment for the day with members seeking immediate resolution of the issue.

Eventually, the government issued a note declaring withdrawal of the clause in the proposed bill providing for preponderance of Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) over the State Advised Price (SAP) that the mill owners ought to pay to the cane farmers.

The note stated, “The object of the ordinance was to ensure that the farmers got a fair and just price for their sugarcane. However, in view of certain judgments of the Supreme Court, it was necessary to determine the price of levy sugar and to validate the actions taken by the government in the past.”

The note conceded that “another clause was introduced in the Sugarcane (Control) Order under which it was acknowledged that the state government is competent to fix the SAP. However, that clause provided that the difference between the SAP and the FRP for sugarcane will be paid by the state governments.

This provision had given rise to certain misgivings. In order to remove any misgivings, it is proposed to delete this clause altogether. Consequently, if the state announces a SAP, it will be the responsibility of the sugar mills to pay the SAP to the farmers.”

Having scored a major win, the Opposition, too, seemed to be in a generous mood. “The whole purpose of our agitation was to protect the interest of farmers. We will only be too happy to bail out the government from its unnecessary commitment of paying sugar mills Rs 14,000 crore. After all this is public money and if it saved it will only help the people. The government has promised to bring an amended bill and we will support such a bill,” said a senior Opposition leader.



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