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Farmers, officials not on same page over sugarcane price, ball now in Capt’s court

At least 81 trains were impacted on Monday. Railway officials in the Ferozepur division said a refund of Rs 53.65 lakh was given to 12,300 passengers by 4pm on Monday

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
August 24, 2021 7:59:52 am
Farmers block railway tracks during their indefinite protest demanding higher sugarcane State Advisory Price (SAP), in Jalandhar, Monday. PTI

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will on Tuesday meet farmer leaders over sugarcane prices and clearance of pending dues even as the agitation over the issues continued for the fourth day on Monday, impacting rail services and the road traffic.

Farmers have blocked a national highway and rail tracks over the issues in Jalandhar, forcing the authorities to cancel train or divert traffic. Railway officials in the Ferozepur division said a refund of Rs 53.65 lakh was given to 12,300 passengers by 4pm on Monday for the cancellation of trains.

At least 81 trains were impacted on Monday, including 65 being cancelled, and the remaining either being diverted, short terminated and short originated, railway officials said, adding that in the last four days at least 215 trains have been cancelled, 47 diverted, 68 short terminated and 38 short originated.

The meeting between the CM and farmer leaders will be held at Chandigarh, said a senior official of the Punjab Agriculture Department.

This came after a group of officials and experts, including Agriculture Commissioner Dr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Director Agriculture Dr Sukhdev Singh, and two economists of Punjab Agricultural University Monday held a meeting with farmer leaders at Jalandhar and heard them over the cost of sugarcane production.

Agriculture Commissioner described the meeting as a step in the right direction to end the ongoing agitation, it came to fore that farmers and experts are not on the same page over estimates for the cost of production, on the basis of which the state agreed price (SAP) of sugarcane will be decided.

The farmers on August 20 had launched an agitation demanding that the Punjab government brtiunf the SAP at par with Haryana, where it is Rs 358 per quintal. They have already rejected the hike of Rs 15 per quintal announced by the Punjab government on August 19. The state government had revised sugarcane rates to Rs 325 for the early variety, Rs 315 for mid-variety, and Rs 310 per quintal for the late-maturing variety, which the farmers had termed as too little.

After Sunday’s meeting with Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, the farmers had demanded that the SAP be set at Rs 400 per quintal, as they claimed that their input cost was Rs 392 per quintal.
During Monday’s meeting, however, the farmers said that their input cost worked out to Rs 470 per quintal, but they would be satisfied with Rs 400 per quintal price. The experts, however, calculated the input cost at Rs 345 per quintal, said sources.

“Different rates have been quoted by farmers ever since their protests began. First, they demanded SAP at par with Haryana, which is Rs 358 per quintal. Then they asked for Rs 400 per quintal by claiming that their input cost was Rs 392 per quintal. Today, they said that their input cost worked out to Rs 470 per quintal but they would agree to Rs 400 per quintal,” said a senior officer, who attended the meeting, adding that the farmers appeared a little confused because if their input costs were actually Rs 470 per quintal, then why would they settled for lower SAP.

“We have asked them to calculate again because there may be some confusion among them and it may be sorted out in tomorrow’s meeting,” added the officials.

Agriculture Commissioner Sidhu said that detailed deliberations took place with farmers at the district administrative complex, where their all genuine concerns were heard patiently. He said on most of the issues, a consensus between government and farmers have evolved while there are still differences on some issues, which were expected to be resolved in Tuesday’s meeting with the chief minister.
Bharti Kisan Union general secretary Satnam Singh Sahni said their protest will continue till their demands are met.

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