The talks between the government and the protesting farmers in Punjab on Sunday remained inconclusive as the former didn't arrive to the demand of hiking the state assured price (SAP) of sugarcane to a minimum of Rs 400 per quintal.For the past two days, farmers have been blocking the Delhi-Amritsar national highway near Jalandhar, along with the rail tracks. They threatened to block all highways from Tuesday, if their demands were not accepted.However, service roads were opened for Raksha Bandhan, while the dharna at Jalandhar continued as usual.At the meeting led by Cooperative Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa here, it was decided to clear the outstanding dues of Rs 45 crore of the sugarcane growers by first week of September.Another meeting with an expert committee will also be held on Monday.The government last week hiked the assured price by Rs 15, making it Rs 350 a quintal.Official sources told IANS that a meeting with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh may be held on Tuesday.Expressing solidarity with the protesting sugarcane farmers, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday demanded that the Congress government should increase the state assured price (SAP) of sugarcane to a minimum of Rs 380 per quintal, besides calling for the immediate release of all pending payments due to the sugarcane growers.
He also announced that in case the state government did not do justice to the sugarcane growers, the next SAD-BSP alliance government would raise the SAP to a minimum of Rs 380 per quintal."We will include this commitment in our election manifesto as well," he added.In a statement issued here, the SAD President said that it is "shocking" that after refusing to increase the SAP for sugarcane for four years, the Punjab government has affected a "measly" Rs 15 per quintal increase towards the fag end of its tenure."This amounts to betraying both the sugarcane growers as well as the cause of diversification. The government has sprinkled salt on the wounds of the cane growers through this callous and insensitive act," he said.Had the government hiked the sugarcane price by a minimum of Rs 20 per year, the SAP this year would have been at least Rs 380, which is a fair per quintal price for sugarcane, he said."Not doing so has caused a loss of Rs 1,000 crore to the Punjab farmers," Sukhbir Badal said, adding that the Haryana government is giving a SAP of Rs 358 per quintal, which is Rs 30 to Rs 40 more per quintal.He also said that the loss is much more if the interest quotient on the late payments as well as high state VAT on diesel is taken into account.The SAD chief also demanded that the state government should ensure immediate release of the backlog of payments due to sugarcane growers from cooperative sugar mills."The private mills have sold sugar in the market, but have not paid the farmers," he said.