Farmer leaders in Maharashtra have decided to intensify their protest for a higher cane purchase price after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Capital on Tuesday. The PM had asked a high-level committee headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to address the sector’s concerns at the earliest. Finance minister P Chidambaram and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh are the other members of the committee. Sangli, one of the main cane-producing regions in Maharashtra, was closed on Wednesday after a bandh call given by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, which is led by Kolhapur MP Raju Shetty. The Sanghatana threatened to intensify its stir in cane-producing belts of the state from Thursday. Raju Shetty has threatened to stall crushing if factories pay anything less than R3,000 a tonne for sugarcane. Sadabhu Khot, state unit president of the group, said the agitation would be intensified and mills will not be allowed to function. Although 96 mills across Maharashtra are reported to have begun crushing operations, more than 45 mills in three major regions of the state – Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur – are yet to begin operations due to the ongoing protests. As a result, around 60,000 workers in these regions continue to remain without work. Around 3.5 lakh workers across the state find employment with the mills during the crushing season.