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Farmers in UP's Lakhimpur to Hold 'Tractor March' Demanding Sugarcane Dues

Six sugar mills in Lakhimpur together owe farmers more than Rs 1200 crore for sugarcane.

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Lucknow:Lakhimpur district of Uttar Pradesh is set to witness a 'tractormarch'by farmerson Wednesday againstthelong-pending duesforsugarcane from thestate government and private sugar factories. Hundreds from the district are expected to drive into the city in tractors and other vehicles as part of the march under the banner of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan.

The decision to hold a tractor march was taken after a meeting with Sangthan president V M Singh and local farmers who have been protesting at the sugar mill for the last two months. The government did not pay heed tothe farmers’demands. The union hasalsosent a memorandum toSub-DivisionalMagistrate, Amresh Kumardemandingthepaymentforsugarcane crushing season 2020-21.

"With the 2020-21 crushing season-endingthree-four months back with a record crushing of 1015.80 lakh quintals of cane byninesugar mills in Lakhimpur district alone, these mills still owe Rs 1200 crore to the growers that has pushed many of them to the brink of poverty and a few farmers are forced to take loans on Kisan Credit Cards to make ends meet," Tejinder Singh, a farmeraffiliated to theRashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan toldNewsclick.

He said, “The government has failed to get outstanding sugarcane dues paid in time,whichis leading to thefarmers facing a financial crisis. They have spent hugeamounts ofmoney on sugarcane crops, but are still empty-handed and being forced to take loans from banks. Farmers cooperated with the government during the lockdown and did not stage a protest for the clearance of their dues. But even as the lockdown is over, the mills are still not paying their outstanding dues, pushing many farmers to the brink of poverty and leaving them with no option but to launch an agitation.”

According to statistics provided by the cane department, out of the nine sugar mills of the district, three mills--Ajabpur, Kumbhi and Gularia--have made full paymentsto the sugarcane farmersfor cropspurchased in the crushing seasonof2020-21. The remaining six mills – Gola, Palia, Khambharkheda of Bajaj Group, Aira of Advantage Group and Sahakari Mills Sampoornanagar and Belrayan--have not yetfullypaid the farmers. Rs 1221.58 croreis due fromthese six millsand they have not paid the farmers since November 2020.

The farmers alleged that the Yogi Adityanath government has neither increased theState-Advised Price(SAP)after 2017-18 nor forced mills to pay evenat that level.Previously, the cane price was hiked from Rs 125 to Rs 240/quintal undertheBahujan Samaj Party (2007-08 to 2011-12) and from Rs 240 to Rs 305/quintal undertheSamajwadi Party (2012-13 to 2016-17).

“Pending cane dues are not being cleared by the state government despite long delays. We have been forced to sell our produce at below minimum support price. It is becoming difficult for the farmers to recover input prices in crop production.Moreover,farmers in Uttar Pradesh pay the highest electricity rates in the country.We will be highlighting all these issues duringthetractor march,” Gurmeet, another farmer, said.

Recently, over 500 farmers from Meerutgheraoedthecane commissioner's office under theleadershipoftheRashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan led by V M Singh. Theydemandedclearance of theirpending dues fromthesugar mills. The RKMS has been demanding interest payment on sugarcane dues pending withthemills and has held several sit-in protests in Western Uttar Pradesh in the past few months.

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