Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa Tuesday threatened to join the ongoing protest of sugar cane growers against the Punjab government's failure to ensure that sugar mills in the state were operational even as the crushing season was on.
The agitating farmers are also demanding that their pending dues with private and cooperative sugar mills of the last cane crushing season be cleared immediately.
On Tuesday, they held protests at Phagwara in Kapurthala, Mukerian, Dasuya in Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur, while some of them even blocked roads at several places, forcing the authorities to divert traffic.
"I will join the protest of cane growers if state government fails to ensure start of cane crushing operations," Mr Bajwa said as he threatened to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court to ensure "justice" for the cane growers.
The Rajya Sabha MP and former Punjab Congress chief also appealed to the Punjab CM to ensure that cane crushing begins immediately and the outstanding payment of Rs. 400 crore to the cane growers be settled along with interest on the arrears.
"I want to issue a warning that if private and cooperative mills do not pay interest on arrears to the farmers, I will approach the high court," said Mr Bajwa.
Meanwhile, the cane growers threatened to intensify their agitation if their demands were not met by the state government.
There are seven private sugar mills in Punjab and they crush about 70 per cent of cane grown in the state.
The mills have refused to operate because they are demanding that the difference between Fair Remunerative Price (FRP) and State Advised Price (SAP)-- Rs. 35 per quintal cane-- be paid to the farmers by the Punjab government.
The Amarinder Singh-led government, however, refused the proposal.
Earlier in the day, a meeting between the administration and the mill owners that was attended by Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh failed to achieve a breakthrough, said a private sugar mill owner Jarnail Singh Wahid.
Punjab government had on Monday formed a committee headed by the chief secretary to look into the demands of sugar mill owners.
A delegation of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Tuesday met Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore and sought his intervention to save the sugarcane growers from the "clutches of private sugar mill mafia".