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Farmer’s killing rocks House

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The death of a sugarcane farmer yesterday in police firing in Basti, Uttar Pradesh, rocked the Lok Sabha today, forcing Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to suggest an all-party meeting to decide the minimum support price for sugarcane for which the farmers have been agitating for some time now.

Vajpayee expressed concern over the death of the farmer in police firing. “We have to rise above party considerations,” he said. “Let all of us sit together and decide the issue.”

As soon as the House assembled, angry Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal members, joined by some Congress MPs, stormed the House, stalling question hour. The agitated Opposition members demanded an adjournment motion to discuss the issue. Shouting anti-government slogans, they said they would not allow proceedings to continue till the government found a solution to the problems of sugarcane growers.

The bedlam continued for more than half-an-hour, forcing Speaker Manohar Joshi to adjourn the House till noon.

Later, responding to the issue, the Prime Minister said the government was collecting information in this regard and would make a statement later in the day. If the police were found to be guilty, they would be punished, he assured the members.

Vajpayee said he had already spoken to the chief minister and other authorities in this regard, adding that he had been told the police had only fired in the air.

Late in the evening, food minister Sharad Yadav made a statement in the House, quoting a state government report, that one person was killed as a result of firing by someone in the mob.

Yadav said members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union had been demonstrating at the main gate of Munderwa sugar mill since December 2 and had gone on a rampage after 67 workers were arrested. They beat up policemen, burnt government vehicles, set the water corporation stone cabin on fire and damaged rail tracks, disrupting traffic for five hours, he said.

The minister said Gorakhpur inspector general of police and some other policemen were injured. Ten persons have been arrested in this regard, he added.

A dead body was recovered 15 km from the site, but it was not yet clear whether he person was a victim of police firing, Yadav said. Newspaper reports, however, say three persons were killed and many injured, he added.

Regarding the dispute over the minimum support price for sugarcane, the minister said the court had ordered that the state government could not pay more than the price fixed by the Centre.

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda suggested Vajpayee should immediately convene a meeting of chief ministers to find a solution, as the matter could not be left to the judiciary. CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee supported Deve Gowda’s view and asked government not to treat it as “a routine matter”.

Congress deputy leader Shivraj Patil endorsed the suggestion. “A non-partisan attitude should be adopted in solving the matter,” he remarked.

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