Decision to pay FRP in instalments comes under fire
Taking aim at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief Raju Shetti accused the ruling powers of betraying the interests of Maharashtra’s farmers by considering the payment of the fair and remunerative price (FRP) to them in separate installments instead of at one go.
Speaking at the 20th annual ‘sugar conclave’ held in Jaysingpur in western Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district, Mr. Shetti urged farmers to protest against the MVA leaders by showing black flags.
While the SSS chief, nominally an MVA ally, is known for targeting the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party at the Centre over farmer issues, Mr. Shetti has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the tripartite MVA government of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress in recent months.
He particularly criticised Mr. Pawar after the latter approved of the sugar factory owners’ stance to pay FRP to farmers in three separate installments.
“Mr. Pawar, during his famous ‘speech in the rain’ in Satara district [ahead of the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election] had promised that the new government would usher in change for farmers. Accordingly, the farmers of the State had supported the NCP but Mr. Pawar seems to have forgotten them… we thought Mr. Pawar would stand by us [read farmers] in our hour of crisis, but he is unfortunately backing powerful sugar factory owners,” Mr. Shetti alleged.
Exhorting farmers to make the upcoming Diwali of MVA leaders “bitter”, Mr. Shetti said that both the Uddhav Thackeray government and the Modi-ruled Centre had turned their backs on farmers issues. He reminded Mr. Pawar that when all powerful sugar factory owners were defecting to the BJP prior to the 2019 Assembly elections, only the farmers had supported the NCP and the Congress who were now part of the MVA.
“For all the devastation wrought by floods in the Konkan and western Maharashtra and by the retreating monsoon in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, farmers are being given a compensation of a mere ₹150 per guntha of cropland [0.025 acres] as opposed to the ₹ 900 per guntha they were given in 2019… farmers had great aspirations when Uddhav Thackeray’s MVA came to power. They thought they would at least get the full FRP at one go. But neither will they get that nor receive adequate recompense for flood and rain-related destruction of crops,” he said.
Mr. Shetti said that while the BJP-led Centre was primarily to blame for advocating the payment of the FRP in three installments, he ticked-off the leadership of the MVA, notably Mr. Pawar, for advocating the same and siding with factory owners instead of sugarcane cultivators.
“At the time of the formation of the MVA, the Chief Minister had given me assurances while a lot of ministers in the governments had told me that there was no need for me to agitate as the government was going to help farmers. As a result, the SSS had shown restraint till now. However, we are now to going to protest this,” he said.
Mr. Shetti hit out at the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) for recommending the NITI Aayog that there was no harm in giving FRP to farmers in three installments.
“The Modi government, which came to power on the trust of farmers, and which had promised to implement the Swaminathan Committee recommendations, has destroyed the CACP. Today, the body has no president and has only two of the required five members. When representatives of private and government-owned sugar mills approached the NITI Aayog and said they could not pay farmers the FRP at one go, the Aayog immediately acceded and was supported by the impotent CACP,” said the SSS chief.
Mr. Shetti alleged that while the NITI Aayog nonetheless had told the sugar factory owners to pay FRP to farmers in three installments within six months, the MVA had gone even further to support the interests of the mill owners by allowing them to pay the FRP in three parts in one year’s time.
He dismissed Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal’s assurances to BJP Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis that the Centre would not allow mills to pay FRP in installments.
“Mr. Goyal claims to have written to Mr. Fadnavis that he would not allow mill owners to pay FRP in installments. If so, then his office must have at least taken out a press note to this effect…I have enquired of the Chief Secretary’s office, the Sugar Commissioner’s office and other places and no one has received any such letter except Devendra Fadnavis. How are farmers expected to believe these assurances?” Mr. Shetti questioned.
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