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Sugercane farmers begin dharna on Phagwara National Highway, seek Rs 70 hike in State Agreed Price

Demanding a hike in the State Agreed Price (SAP) of sugarcane from Rs 380 to Rs 450 per quintal, all 32 farmer unions of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Tuesday started an indefinite dharna on the Jalandhar-Phagwara stretch of the National Highway near Dhannowali village here.

dharna site on the Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway at Dhannowali on Tuesday. Tribune Photo: Malkiat Singh

Tents were pegged and carpets and mattresses were laid on the road as thousands of farmers from across the state converged at the site.

We are seeking an enhancement in the State Agreed Price (SAP) of sugarcane from Rs 380 to Rs 450 per quintal and compensation for losses to cane farmers in Gurdaspur. Manjit Singh Rai, BKU (Doaba)

Rates to be fixed today

A meeting of the Sugarcane Control Board has been called on Wednesday by the Chief Minister and the final call on the rates will be taken there after consulting all stakeholders. Rajesh Raheja, Punjab Cane Commissioner

All vehicular movement from Jammu, Pathankot and Amritsar side via Jalandhar towards Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Nawanshahr, Haryana or further towards the national capital got badly affected.

Hundreds of commuters who were travelling on buses on either side of the dharna had to walk for over 4 km to get the next bus.

Men, women and children had to walk via the service lanes along the highway as these remained partly available for transit. Those on cars were made to take very long detours which also remained badly congested.

Leading the protest, Manjit Singh Rai of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Doaba) said they had repeatedly requested the government for enhancement of SAP but to no avail.

“We are holding this dharna to seek enhancement in prices, demand compensation for losses to cane farmers in Gurdaspur and to raise the demand to start sugar mills at the earliest,” he said.

Rai added: “We had planned this dharna earlier on November 8 but the government had then got it stalled saying that they would finalise the enhancement and release a notification to this effect by November 16. Former Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Dhaliwal had promised us that there would be an annual revision of cane prices in sync with the cost of production. We are demanding increase in sugarcane rate to Rs 450 per quintal.”

Other than the 32 unions under the SKM, members of the BKU (Ugrahan) and BKU (Rajewal) also joined the protest this afternoon.

Balwinder Singh Mallinangal, state president of the Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee, said: “We shall stay here for the night as a meeting of the Sugarcane Control Board is slated to be held tomorrow at 11 am at the CM’s office in Chandigarh. Since all mill owners have also been invited at the meeting, we are expecting the rates to be fixed tomorrow.”

The farm leader added: “If a notification regarding suitable rate is issued tomorrow after the meeting, we shall lift our sit-in. If not, we shall extend our dharna till our demands are met.”

Punjab Cane Commissioner Rajesh Raheja said: “As a meeting of the Sugarcane Control Board has been called tomorrow by the CM, the final call on the rates will be taken there. He has invited owners of private sugar mills and government officials since both have a share in the cane payments. He will seek their consent before making any announcement.”

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