Agri Business

Discontent over cane arrears simmers in Uttar Pradesh

AM Jigeesh Meerut/ Bagpat/ Shamli | Updated on April 02, 2019

It’s not religion but cane and stray cattle that are big issues in the State’s Western region

At least a hundred trucks are lined up at 12 noon on Tuesday in front of the Upper Doab Sugar Mill, Shamli, in Uttar Pradesh, awaiting their turn to offload sugarcane. It is the peak harvest season. Expectedly, farmers travelling with the produce have just one thing to discuss — sugarcane arrears. Most look agitated. Some say they are unable to pay the school fees of their children even as the new academic session has started. Others are worried about meeting input costs for the next crop. And some have agriculture loans to repay.

Cane arrears in Uttar Pradesh, based on the State Advisory Price, are about ₹12,549.61 crore for 2018-19. Arrears pending for 2017-18 and 2016-17 are ₹238.81 crore and ₹22.29 crore, respectively. Together, the amount comes to ₹12,810.71 crore.

Besides, the interest for arrears for the period between 2011 and 2014 is about ₹2,750 crore. Interest on arrears between 2015 and 2019 is yet to be calculated.

Getting the cane arrears cleared is thus, understandably, the primary issue for farmers in the western part of UP. Separately, the State’s ban on animal slaughter has led to a lot of cattle being abandoned, and this has led to them feeding on fields, causing losses to farmers. These issues even go beyond the caste/communal barriers in the region.

“Farmers and the poor people in villages are in dire straits. Na Mandir chalegi, na masjid chalegi, na chalega Jinnah, Yaha chalega awaara pashu aur ganna. (Here, mandir, masjid and Jinnah are not an issue. The issues here are stray cattle and sugarcane),” said Jitender Singh, who organised a series of protests in front of the sugar mill in February.

Vote bank

In an election year, these farmers are a key vote bank for political parties. There are approximately 35 lakh registered sugarcane farmer families (approximately two crore people) in Uttar Pradesh and their vote is very decisive for any party. A similar number of people or even more are involved in the labour in sugarcane fields and factories.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised in a recent speech that he would ensure that the arrears would be paid at the earliest.

Farmers in front of the Shamli factory vent their ire at Suresh Rana, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Cane Development and Sugar Mills, in the Yogi Adityanath Government. Rajendra Kumar, a farmer, said just two of the 20 receipts he got from the factory this season for his produce got paid. “Payment of 18 receipts is due,” he said.

Another farmer, Mohammed Rafeeque, owns 45 bighas of land. “I sold 1,200 quintals of sugarcane to the factory. I have to get ₹ 3.5 lakh, but just ₹60,000 is what I got as of now. I have already received a notice from the school where my children are studying,” said an emotional Rafeeque.

“(Former Chief Ministers) Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati were good with sugarcane payments. BJP is against farmers,” laments Mohit Tomar, who farms sugarcane with his father on about 30 bighas of land. They have come to a small-scale sugar mill in Khiwai to sell their harvest. “It will take days to reach our turn in big mills,” Tomar said, adding that he is yet to receive ₹3 lakh from the mills. “This is last year’s dues. I haven’t received 80 per cent of the payment. It’s not just a few hundred rupees,” he added.

Besides the discontent over dues, the denial of permission to hold a protest in Delhi has also gone against the BJP in the area. The Opposition, particularly the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, is using the sugarcane issue for political mileage .

The BJP, however, is confident that the anger will be doused once the government releases the next instalment of the payment, probably in the first week of April. The BJP had promised in 2014 that it would pay the dues within 14 days. Certain statements of the CM are also being seen as anti-farmer.

Published on April 02, 2019

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