Karnataka CM holds talks with sugarcane farmers, assures support

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Tuesday held talks with agitating sugarcane farmers from the state and assured a higher minimum support price for the growers.

“I have met with sugarcane farmers from across the state and assured them a higher minimum support price (MSP) for their cane and support in settling dues from sugar mill owners,” Kumaraswamy told reporters at the state legislative building after the meeting with farmers and mill representatives.

The six-hour long meeting was convened after hundreds of farmers, including their womenfolk, on Sunday staged protests at Belagavi, about 500 km in the state’s northwest, against the state government’s alleged indifference over ensuring MSP for cane.

“The state government will ensure a higher MSP than earlier to cane farmers and make sure they don’t face any issues going ahead,” Kumaraswamy asserted.

The previous Congress government had fixed Rs 2,500 per tonne as MSP of sugarcane last year, while the farmers have been demanding an MSP of Rs 3,000 per tonne in view of the production glut and falling prices.

“The farmers claimed that mill owners cumulatively owe them about Rs 450-crore. District officials have been directed to get the details and ensure the dues are cleared by the mills within the next 15 days,” the Chief Minister said.

A meeting with the southern state’s sugar mill owners and representatives will be held on Thursday, he added.

“As per farmers’ suggestions, the state government will study the models adopted by Maharashtra and Gujarat for sugarcane farmers,” Kumaraswamy said.

Over farmer complaints about irregularities in the weighing of cane, the Chief Minister said digital weighing scales will be used at all sugar mills to eliminate discrepancies.

Stressing that the coalition Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-Congress government was committed to farmer issues, Kumaraswamy said the state will also soon fix a MSP for onion farmers as well.

As a protest against Kumarswamy cancelling his visit to Belagavi on Monday, about 20 farmers drove trucks laden with sugarcane into the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, which is the state legislative and secretariat building for the region.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit President B.S. Yeddyurappa criticized the coalition government for failing to fix price for cane even after the central government announcing a fair and remunerative price three months back at Rs 2,750 per tonne.

“Kumaraswamy has failed to take farmers’ issue seriously. The state should soon fix a state advisory price for cane farmers,” Yeddyurappa told reporters here.

“It is unfortunate that a farmer chief minister had insulted a farmer-woman by telling her that he was not responsible if sugar factory owners had not paid them dues for the last 4-5 years as he (Kumaraswamy) became Chief Minister only five months ago,” lamented Yeddyurappa.

“By calling farmers ‘goondas’, Kumaraswamy has indulged in an arrogance of power. BJP will hold state wide agitation if farmer issues aren’t resolved soon,” added Yeddyurappa, who was the BJP’s first Chief Minister in the southern state from May 2008 to July 2011.