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Farmers call off stir as Capt hikes sugarcane SAP to `360/quintal; now highest in country: Bajwa

The CM, who met the farmer leaders in Chandigarh, announced a hike of Rs 35 per quintal, in addition to the Rs 15 per quintal hike announced last week, in the SAP for crushing season 2021-22. The SAP is now Rs 2 higher than in neighbouring Haryana.

Farmers in Punjab Tuesday called off their 5-day long agitation over better rates for sugarcane after Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh announced the state assured price (SAP) of Rs 360 per quintal for the cash crop, which Congress Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa said was highest in the country.

The CM, who met the farmer leaders in Chandigarh, announced a hike of Rs 35 per quintal, in addition to the Rs 15 per quintal hike announced last week, in the SAP for crushing season 2021-22. The SAP is now Rs 2 higher than in neighbouring Haryana.

The farmers on August 20 had launched the agitation demanding that the Punjab government bring the SAP at par with Haryana, where it is Rs 358 per quintal. Terming the Rs 15 per quintal hike as inadequate, they had blocked a national highway and rail tracks, including the busy Delhi-Amritsar route, in Jalandhar leading to at least 330 trains being affected by way of cancellation, diversion, or short termination. Their demand had also got the backing of state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rajya Sabha MP Bajwa.

According to an official spokesperson, agreeing to the demand for a hike in cane pries, Amarinder told the farm leaders that Punjab’s fiscal situation had prevented adequate increase in the SAP for the past three to four years. He said farmers were not to blame for the problem, which was caused by Punjab’s poor finances.

The CM said he was always with farmers and wanted to do his best for their welfare but the state’s fiscal crisis had prevented him from increasing SAP earlier. Balancing the needs of farmers with those of the cooperative and private sugar mill owners was tough, given the prevailing fiscal situation, he added.

After the meeting, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Doaba) chief Manjit Singh Rai told reporters that have been told that their pending arrears will be paid in 15 days. Rai said they have also told farmers in Jalandhar to lift the blockade. BKU Rajewal chief Balbir Singh Rajewal declared the increase in cane prices by the state government as a “big victory” for farmers.

Terming the hike as a “revolutionary step”, Bajwa said, “Sugarcane farmers in Punjab now receive the highest SAP across the nation. Cane growers in Punjab will now earn an additional Rs 300 crore”.
Bajwa hoped hope that now the government will review the prices annually keeping in mind the rising costs of production. “An incremental increase would ensure that sugarcane farming in the state is sustainable and aid in the crop diversification efforts of the government of Punjab,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sidhu in a tweet said, “Kudos to the Government for this hike in SAP for Sugarcane Farmers !! Now we have the highest SAP among the four states.”

Earlier, hours before CM was to meet farmers, Sidhu said, “Sugarcane farmers SAP has not increased since 2018, whereas input cost has increased by over 30%. Punjab model means policy interventions giving fair prices, equitable share in profits, diversification in production & processing to give more profits to both farmers & sugar mill”.

“SAP should be immediately hiked as per farmers demands & pending dues should be released. Along with Modernization of Sugar Mills for higher productivity & production of high-value byproducts (ethanol, biofuel & electricity) for boosting profits of both Farmers and Sugar Mills,” he added.

Meanwhile, farmers started removing the tents, stage and langar that they had put to block the roads and the train tracks. The farmer leaders, while apologising to the public for the blockade, said it was the only way to wake up the government from its deep slumber.

BKU (Doaba) general secretary Satnam Singh Sahni said that if the government wants farmers to shift from water guzzling paddy to sugarcane, then reasonable SAP and timely payment to the sugarcane growers is must. “Diversification will be possible only when all alternative crops for paddy have an assured market,” said Sahni.

In the meeting, ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Balbir Singh Sidhu, along with MPs Preneet Kaur and Partap Singh Bajwa, MLAs Rana Gurjit Singh, Dr Raj Kumar Verka, Fatehjang Singh Bajwa and Navtej Singh Cheema were present.

The farmer union leaders, representing the Sanjha Kisan Morcha that has been spearheading the sugarcane farmers’ agitation for the past five days, thanked the CM for addressing their problems. They also appreciated the move of the Punjab government to give Rs 5 lakh compensation and a job to one family member each of the farmers who have lost their lives during the ongoing protest against the central agri laws at the Delhi border.

Besides Rajewal and Rai, the morcha representatives at the meeting included Kulwant Singh Sandhu, Harmeet Kadia, Jangvir Singh Chauhan, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, Mukesh Chander, Kuldeep Wajidpur, Baldev Singh Sirsa, Baldev Singh Dupper and Balwinder Aulakh.

Punjab Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh, Sugarfed chairman Amrik Singh Aliwal. Additional chief secretary (Development) Anirudh Tiwari, Financial Commissioner (Cooperation) K Siva Prasad, Principal Secretary to CM Tejvir Singh, Agriculture Commissioner Balwinder Singh Sidhu and Cane Commissioner Gurvinder Singh were also present.

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