In yet another sign that the tenuous truce brokered between Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Navjot Singh Sidhu might be short-lived, the latter slammed Singh-led government in Punjab and hailed BJP-ruled states for higher State Assured Prices(SAP) for Sugarcane.
Sidhu on Monday posted a tweet calling for an increase in State Agreed Price (SAP) for sugarcane in Punjab, asserting that despite the higher cost of cultivation in the state, the SAP is lower than that received by farmers in BJP ruled states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“The sugarcane farmers issue needs to be immediately resolved amicably…Strange that despite the higher cost of cultivation in Punjab the state assured price is too low as compared to Haryana/UP/Uttarakhand. As a torchbearer of agriculture, the Punjab SAP should be better!” Sidhu tweeted.
The SAP of the sugarcane in Punjab for early, mid and late varieties is Rs 310, Rs 300 and Rs 295 per quintal, respectively. These three varities are harvested in November-December, January, and February-March, respectively.
By contrast, in Haryana, the SAP stands at Rs 345 and Rs 340 per quintal for the early and late varieties, respectively. In Uttrakhand, it is Rs 327 and Rs 317 for early and late varieties and in UP, it is Rs 325 and Rs 315 for early and late varieties, respectively.
Sugarcane farmers in Punjab launch agitation against low SAP
Sidhu’s tweet came in the wake of indefinite protests carried out by thousands of farmers and sugarcane producers affiliated to nearly 32 farmers’ organisations demanding the clearance of pending dues of sugarcane and enhancement in the State Agreed Price(SAP).
As many as 20,000 farmers participated in the protests on the first day of the agitation on the Dhanowali Road on the Jalandhar-Phagwara highway on Friday. Many farmers sat on dharna on rail tracks also.
The farmers lamented that despite letters written to the state government on the issue for the past many years, there has been no interest from them to resolve the issue and alleviate our concerns.
“The state government has forced us to launch an agitation. More than six have elapsed but the state government hasn’t increased the rates of SAP for sugarcane. The prices of fertilisers, labour, diesel rates are increasing. We have been giving demand letters to the government every year,” said Kuldip Singh, who heads the Doaba Kisan Union. “When the government came in power in 2017, there was just a 10 rupee increase in the rate while they had promised 20. Earlier, the Akalis didn’t increase the rate, then the Congress came and promised they will increase the rate by Rs 10 every year. If they increased even that much every year, we wouldn’t have complained. But we need the sugarcane SAP to be at least Rs 400 per quintal.”
The tussle between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh
As disgruntled sugarcane farmers in Punjab took to the streets, Congress state president Navjot Singh Sidhu seems to use the crisis to his advantage. It has once again brought to fore the infighting within the Punjab Congress unit, with Sidhu and Singh allegedly involved in a perpetual tussle to exert their dominance over the party.
In July 2021, as speculations of Sidhu being elevated to the position of President of Punjab Congress Pradesh Committee started doing the rounds, CM Captain Amarinder Singh hinted that he will accept Navjot Singh Sidhu as the chief of the Punjab Congress but with a caveat. The CM has refused to meet the dissident Congress leader unless Sindhu apologises to him first.
Captain Amarinder Singh has demanded a public apology from Navjor Singh Sidhu for his offensive comments and tweets and has refused to meet him until he receives the apology. Reportedly, the CM told this to Harish Rawat, the All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Punjab affairs.
For the last several months, Sidhu has been attacking Amarinder Singh with various allegations. He has accused the CM of colluding with the Badals of Akali Dal, accused of running a mafia raj in Punjab, and alleged that the CM is not taking action against sacrilege cases. Although several state leaders are not happy with Sidhu for such public outburst against the own govt, the high command is not willing to take action against him, eyeing the elections next year.
Months of bickering and speculations by the Punjab Congress leaders came to an end on July 19, with Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi setting aside reservations raised by Captain Amarinder Singh and anointing Navjot Singh Sidhu the new Punjab Congress Chief.