Covid-19: Over 6 lakh sugarcane cutters in dire straits

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on August 06, 2020 Published on August 06, 2020

Migrant workers are unsure about their movement due to the spread of Covid-19

About 6 lakh workers from the Marathwada region of Maharashtra migrate to other parts of the State and neighbouring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh during sugarcane harvesting. This year mills plan to start the crushing season in October, but migrant workers are unsure about their movement due to the spread of Covid-19. Sugarcane cutting is the main source of livelihood for these workers, and the majority of them are landless or marginal farmers.

Beed-based activist Manisha Tokale said that district collectors will have to take a call on allowing migration of sugarcane cutters.

Source of livelihood

Sugarcane farming is the source of livelihood for nearly 2.5 crore people in rural Maharashtra, and the industry provides direct employment to about 1,65,000 workersbesides eight lakh workers (including sugarcane cutters) engaged in harvesting and transport operations every year for six months. The sugar industry accounts for an annual revenue of over ₹2,000 crore to the government.

According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), Maharashtra’s net cane area has gone up by about 43 per cent, mainly due to above normal rainfall. As against the net cane area of 7.76 lakh ha. in 2019-20, area is expected to increase to 11.12 lakh ha.

“Sugar mills will need sugarcane cutters to cut the cane. Not all mills are going for mechanised sugarcane cutting. Sugar crushing season will not be commenced without sugarcane cutters and the sugar lobby cannot afford not crushing the cane,” said Ashok Tangade who works with sugarcane cutters in Beed. He added that the majority of sugarcane cutters don’t have any other livelihood resources other than sugarcane cutting, and most of them have taken advance from contractors.

Contractors draw up contracts with the husband and wife counted as one unit. Activists have been demanding that the government should put in more money in employment schemes in rural areas to arrest the migration. “But sugar barons will not allow the government to do this because if migrant workers refuse to go for cane cutting, the industry will collapse,” claimed Tangade.

Meanwhile, the State government has not yet decided on allowing migration of sugarcane cutters. A meeting of sugar mill officials and the government is likely this month-end.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on August 06, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor