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Mayavati meet fails to resolve sugarcane row

New Delhi, May 4: The Centre and Uttar Pradesh government today failed to resolve the row over the procurement price of sugarcane despite a meeting between Mayavati and Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Sharad Yadav and Ajit Singh.

The meeting, which lasted over an hour, was also attended by Uttar Pradesh’s leading sugar mill owners.

Both sides stuck to their positions. The Centre said mill owners must pay a higher statutory minimum price while the latter said they could not pay even the existing price of Rs 69.50.

Mayavati has asked the Centre to let states fix the statutory price, but Delhi is not willing to do so. The chief minister said only state-owned mills are coughing up Rs 69.50, as private mills are refusing to pay up pleading insolvency. There are 52 private mills and 49 government mills.

“I have told the Centre the problems that farmers are facing,” Mayavati said after the meeting. She said fixing a high statutory minimum price will only hurt farmers since private mill owners would never pay up.

Faced with a deadlock, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last month set up a committee that included law minister Arun Jaitley and food minister Sharad Yadav. Yadav said the committee would meet again after failing to make any headway today. He admitted that both sides were facing problems.

After the meeting, S.I. Jain, director-general of the Indian Sugar Mills Association, said: “We are not in a position to pay even the existing SMP.”

The problem is one more headache for the BJP as it gets into election mode. It has already been slammed by farmers for being “insensitive” to their plight and Opposition parties are bound to make electoral capital of this. Agriculture minister Ajit Singh may be hardest hit as his support base mainly comprises farmers.

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