Farmers protest govt push for sugar sector deregulation

Hundreds of farmers assemble at Jantar Mantar, say Rangarajan committee report shouldn't be implemented in northern states

Ashish Rajput and Shradha Narayanan | December 5, 2012


Sugarcane farmers at a protest rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Dec 5: Rangarajan panel report speaks only for the mill owners, they say.
Sugarcane farmers at a protest rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Dec 5: Rangarajan panel report speaks only for the mill owners, they say.

The Rangarajan commission report on ‘sugar sector regulation’ has garnered a lot of attention, mostly in ways that its authors would rather have not. As the sun beat down, hundreds of farmers raised the heat a few notches further at Jantar Mantar on December 4: coming from several states, they carried sugarcane as a mark of protest and placards that showed their disapproval of the report.

Led by VM Singh, national convenor of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and former army chief VK Singh, the protest saw participation of 700 to 800 farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand, along with popular farmer leaders from the states.

The Rangarajan commission report, put together by a five-member committee, has called for deregulation of the country’s sugar sector. The report has recommended that the state advice price (SAP) issued by the states be done away with and the FRP (fair and remunerative price) set by the Centre, which is much lower than SAP, be made the standard price. The committee has also sought removal of reservation of areas, among other points.

“We demand that the Rangarajan committee report not be implemented in UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana,” said V M Singh, calling it a “historic” day that brought together farmers who travelled across hundreds of kilometres to fight for their rights. “If the report is implemented, it will give mill owners a right to rob the farmers,” he said.

Expressing his objection to the report, VK Singh remarked, “How can a commission sitting in an air-conditioned room be given the right to decide the fate of farmers who toil so hard?” Emphasising that they have “told the prime minister” to ignore the report, he said, “We hope he takes into consideration what we have said. If he does not, the farmers should, and will, stand up for their rights.”

Leader of opposition in Haryana assembly Om Prakash Chautala, who was also present, said, “There is a difference in the conditions in south and north India — (there is a) better harvest and recovery of sugarcane in south India. The difference in situation should be considered.”

Criticising the UPA government’s move on allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, Sultan Ahmed of the Trinamool Congress told the farmers, “If you asked who really runs the government, the answer would be foreign multinationals.”

“This report is speaking only for the mills (owners),” said Ajith Kumar Singh, a farmer from Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh. Explaining their plight, he said, “The prices of seeds, fertilisers and other inputs have gone up. But the rates we get for our crop has been the same. Now if this report is implemented, the prices we will get will reduce further. How can things go on like this for us?”

Farmers from other states, too, voiced similar complaints against the Rangarajan committee report. “The recovery that farmers get in Maharashtra and south India is higher than what we get in Uttar Pradesh. In Maharasthra, farmers get about 10-12 percent in government-run mills but in UP, we get about 8-9 percent in private mills. Obviously we are at a loss here,” said Harvin Singh, a farmer from Hapur, Uttar Pradesh.

Addressing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the protest rally, VK Singh warned that if the report was considered and implemented in any of states that did not want it, the government would have to face the consequences. He said every farmer present at the rally would then bring 100 other farmers and protest at the Boat Club in the national capital.

“We are here to show our strength and say that we do not want the report,” he asserted, as cries of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ went up from the farmers assembled.

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