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Cane Dues: Farmers Block Highway in West UP, Threaten to Lock Mills If Payment Not Cleared

As per state sugarcane department records, dues to farmers by all mills in UP stood at Rs 4,042 crore, as of August 24.
sugarcane farmers

Representative image. | Image courtesy: flickr

Lucknow: Farmers protesting over the non-payment of sugarcane dues for the past several days intensified their agitation on Tuesday by organising a 'panchayat' in Western Uttar Pradesh.

The protest, launched under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), also drew support from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a farmers’ collective, which served an ultimatum on the Uttar Pradesh government, asking it to either clear the dues by September 25 or they would lock the main gate of the mills.

“Since the UP government has taken our protest lightly, we have decided to lock the mill gate and also the highway next week,” BKU leader Naresh Chaudhary told NewsClick, warning that his union would turn the agitation into a statewide stir if their demand was not immediately met by the government.

The farmers also announced an indefinite protest over the delay in the payment of their dues amounting to Rs 117 crore by two sugar mills in Amroha district -- Hasanpur Sugarmill and Dhanaura Sugar Mill. 

Meanwhile, farmers in Shamli district blocked the Panipat-Khatima highway carriageway of the NH-9. BKU leader Rakesh Tikait along with his supporters joined the agitation.

"Farmers of nine districts of Meerut and Saharanpur division are still waiting for their dues to be cleared. Out of the 33 sugar mills for these two divisions, with the exception of a few, the payments are yet to be cleared. The sugarcane crop is ready for harvest and after two months the supply to sugar mills will start whereas the previous payments are yet to be disbursed. This has added to the woes of the farmers who are facing financial crises due to the non-payment of their dues by the sugar mills," Tikait told NewsClick, adding that in Shamli district alone, mills need to pay Rs 600 crore of sugarcane dues.

Pointing out certain 'discrepancies' in the promises made by the BJP government, the BKU leader said: "The promise of ensuring payment in 14 days else mills would pay interest has proved to be hollow. The Chief Minister himself had said that we will make the payment before the start of the session, but despite repeated requests to give us a cheque, the government has turned a deaf ear to the request."

The farmers squatted on the highway for at least three hours, resulting in huge traffic jams that stretched to several kilometres. However, ambulances, school buses and other emergency vehicles were allowed to pass, said farmer body’s district president Kapil Khatiyan.

Meanwhile, in the recently concluded sugar season, the state's 120-odd mills purchased cane worth Rs 35,198 crore from farmers. According to records accessed from the state sugarcane department on September 13, the unpaid dues to farmers by all mills in the state stood at Rs 4,042 crore as of August 24. The largest defaulter is the privately-owned Bajaj Group, which operates 14 sugar mills in the state and is responsible for 37.4% of the pending dues totalling Rs 3,000 crore.

Khatiyan, who is leading the protest, further added: "Every year, sugarcane farmers are forced to hold protests for their payments. Cane crushing came to end in April and payments of over Rs 600 crore are still due. Farmers also need money to meet their expenses. We are only being given assurances by government officials. We have been protesting for the last eight days but no written assurance given by the district administration."

Meanwhile, the SKM, after a meeting with the protesting farmers in Western Uttar Pradesh, served an ultimatum to the state government, asking it to either clear the dues till September 25 or face an intensified stir in the form of a massive morcha across the state.

The SKM also said that prices of fuel and fertilisers had gone up but the procurement rate of sugarcane in Uttar Pradesh has remained stagnant for the last six years.

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