Sonias Sweet Request To PM

New Delhi, January 24: | Updated: Jan 25 2003, 05:30am hrs
Giving a new twist to the sugar crisis, Congress president and leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi wrote to the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Friday to resolve the crisis.

In view of the crisis situation, the government should consider at least temporory waiver of excise duty and state purchase taxes on sugar. By treating sugar as a food item, government could identify avenues to provide subsidy to the cane growers till the situation improves, Mrs Gandhi wrote in her letter to the Prime Minister.

She wrote, Mounting arrears of the cane growers have crippled the farmers financially, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab.

Your government needs to take a serious view and immediate decisions to alleviate the mounting misery of 60-70 million rural men, women and children, who are involved directly and indirectly in sugarcane cultivation the letter added.

Mrs Gandhi also stated, Topmost priority must be to find ways and means to ensure immediate payment of arrears and interest due thereon to the cane farmers by the industry.

Mrs Gandhi was earlier approa-ched by Balram Jhakar, former Lok Sabha Speaker, with the proposal on the plight of the farmers in the sugarcane growing states. Talking to FE, Mr Jhakar said, We told her that there are nearly Rs 1000 crore cane arrears to be paid by the industry. Considering that cane is a single crop and the farmer waits for nearly one year to get his money, the payment becomes necessary.

We have also urged the government to release the buffer stock money and evolve a proper policy for sugar. Besides this, we have also said that imports of sugar should be completely stopped. This can be done by increasing the level of import duty, he added.

Being a signatory to the World Trade Organisation does not mean that we will let the goods which are produced in our country to be imported and let our farms and farmers ruin. We have to learn a lesson from Japan and European Union and increase duty on essential goods and protect our industry, he said.