Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday held talks with agitating sugarcane farmers from the state and assured a higher minimum support price for the growers.
Kumaraswamy held a meeting at the Vidhana Soudha with farmer leaders, sugar mill owners and other stakeholders to put reach a consensus and end the protests held by a section of farmers in the state this week.
"I have met with sugarcane farmers from across the state and assured them a higher minimum support price (MSP) for their cane and support in settling dues from sugar mill owners," Kumaraswamy told reporters at the state legislative building after the meeting with farmers and mill representatives.
The six-hour long meeting was convened after hundreds of farmers, including their womenfolk, on Sunday staged protests at Belagavi, about 500 km in the state's northwest, against the state government's alleged indifference over ensuring MSP for cane.
"The state government will ensure a higher MSP than earlier to cane farmers and make sure they don't face any issues going ahead," Kumaraswamy asserted.
The previous Congress government had fixed Rs 2,500 per tonne as MSP of sugarcane last year, while the farmers have been demanding an MSP of Rs 3,000 per tonne in view of the production glut and falling prices.
"The farmers claimed that mill owners cumulatively owe them about Rs 450-crore. District officials have been directed to get the details and ensure the dues are cleared by the mills within the next 15 days," the Chief Minister said.
A meeting with the southern state's sugar mill owners and representatives will be held on Thursday, he added.
"As per farmers' suggestions, the state government will study the models adopted by Maharashtra and Gujarat for sugarcane farmers," Kumaraswamy said.
Over farmer complaints about irregularities in the weighing of cane, the Chief Minister said digital weighing scales will be used at all sugar mills to eliminate discrepancies.
Stressing that the coalition Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-Congress government was committed to farmer issues, Kumaraswamy said the state will also soon fix an MSP for onion farmers as well.
As a protest against Kumaraswamy cancelling his visit to Belagavi on Monday, about 20 farmers drove trucks laden with sugarcane into the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, which is the state legislative and secretariat building for the region.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit President BS Yeddyurappa criticized the coalition government for failing to fix price for cane even after the central government announcing a fair and remunerative price three months back at Rs 2,750 per tonne.
"Kumaraswamy has failed to take farmers' issue seriously. The state should soon fix a state advisory price for cane farmers," Yeddyurappa told reporters here.
"It is unfortunate that a farmer chief minister had insulted a farmer-woman by telling her that he was not responsible if sugar factory owners had not paid them dues for the last 4-5 years as he (Kumaraswamy) became Chief Minister only five months ago," lamented Yeddyurappa.
"By calling farmers 'goondas', Kumaraswamy has indulged in an arrogance of power. BJP will hold statewide agitation if farmer issues aren't resolved soon," added Yeddyurappa.
The BJP has declared that it will be holding a protest in support of the farmers and against the government on Wednesday. CM Kumaraswamy, meanwhile, confirmed to reporters that the demands of the protesting farmers will soon be completely resolved and also added that the partial loan waiver scheme promised by the government will be implemented before the state budget session in 2019.