Belagavi: The sugarcane crisis which virtually brought the Congress government in the state to its knees during last year’s session in Belagavi, returned to haunt Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with the BJP ensuring that proceedings in both Houses of the legislature were crippled on Tuesday, the first day of the session.
While BJP legislators tore into the government for failing to make the rich sugar factory owners toe its policy of paying Rs 2500 per tonne of cane to growers, BJP MPs led by former CM B.S. Yeddyurappa led a huge protest outside the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha on the same issue and courted arrest.
Last year, a debt-ridden sugarcane grower, Vittal Arbhavi, had committed suicide outside the Soudha triggering outrage among farmers across the state and forcing the government to announce Rs 2500 as the cane procurement price by factories. But the government miserably failed in making the owners of factories which crush cane – many of them powerful Congress politicians including some ministers – pay their dues in the last one year.
The other issue, highlighted by the BJP – the demand for the resignation of four “tainted ministers” including K.J. George and Qamarul Islam – paled into insignificance in the wake of the protest by angry farmers. With the farmers in no mood to give up, and talks between their leaders and the CM failing to break the deadlock, the assembly session may replicate the deadlock in parliament. Except, in Belagavi, it’s the BJP which is playing the spoiler.
Siddaramaiah’s ministers didn’t pay farmers!
This is no less than a severe embarrassment for the Siddaramaiah government. Statistics released by sugar minister Mahadev Prasad in the Legislative Council reveal that only four of the 60 sugar factories in the state have paid the government the prescribed price of Rs 2500 per tonne of sugarcane to growers.
High on the defaulters list is Satish Sugars, run by Belagavi strongman and excise minister Satish Jarkiholi’s family which owes Rs 72.89 crore as dues. Shamanur Sugars, owned by horticulture minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa owes Rs 6.9 crore while Nirani Sugars owned by BJP leader and former minister Murugesh Nirani has yet to pay a staggering Rs 91.90 crore. Farmers have so far supplied 3.75 crore tonnes of sugarcane to the cane crushing factories.