Lucknow: Amid the ongoing farmers’ protest against the three contentious farm laws, the farmers in Muzaffarnagar district in Western Uttar Pradesh — the home town of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, held a protest on March 8 against alleged irregularities in the weighing of sugarcane brought to the local cooperative sugar mill.
On Monday morning, the angry farmers parked their cane-laden tractor trolleys on highways, leading to a road blockade.
Abhimanyu Chaudhary, a sugarcane farmer, said that it has been more than three days since waiting at the weighing scale. Yet, he added, it looks like that it will take another two days for his work to be done so that he can take his stock to the sugar mill.
"I travelled more than 40 km to reach this sugar mill in Budhana Tehsil. Not only me, a large number of sugarcane farmers are making a beeline for their turn to come," Chaudhary, a native of Shoram village in UP, told NewsClick, adding that he was upset about loads of sugarcane drying under the scorching sun. This means that the weight of the cane comes down a bit by the time his turn comes for measurement and he will be paid less if the weight of sugarcane goes down.
Chaudhury is not alone, over hundreds of tractor trolleys, each loaded with 300 quintals of sugarcane on an average, can reportedly be seen parked in a barren field near the Bhopada weighing scale in Budhana tehsil here, barely 2 km from the Dhampur sugar mill – the final destination of the load and their carriers after days-long 'weighing' halt.
Among those waiting at the weighing scale are also people who do not own land but are engaged in transporting sugarcane from farms to sugar mills after getting the yield measures at weighing scales. For them, the loss of time during a peak work season means loss of money.
Krishna, a middle-aged landless farmer, said he uses his tractor trolley for transport work like many others in the region, who are typically paid around Rs 12 per quintal of sugarcane from the mills.
"It has been three days since I am standing here. I have got more than 300 quintals of sugarcane loaded on my trolley. If we get it measured quickly, then I can do more rounds and make more money but it seems it won't happen," he said.
Also read: UP: With Dues Piling up, Sugarcane Farmers Await Prices for This Season
"The sugar mills are procuring sugarcane at Rs 325 per quintal, lower than the government-fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 385. Besides, we have been waiting here for so many days and after a couple of days when sugarcane starts drying up, the reduction in weight will bring less money for us," said Suman Tomar, another farmer, asking if this law that the central government is imposing is in favour of farmers.
According to Suman, there are nearly 45 sugar mills in the region besides a large number of jaggery workshops. Most of sugar mills have not cleared farmers' dues of last season but the government never pays any heed.
The farmers making beeline outside the sugar mill strongly support the protesting farmers' demand for a legal guarantee on the MSP and repeal of the three contentious agriculture laws.
Echoing similar sentiments, Gurpreet Balyan, one of the sugarcane farmers, told media that the delay in sugarcane payment and rising diesel prices in Western Uttar Pradesh have made their lives miserable. He also claimed that prices have not been raised for the past several seasons, whereas companies have reduced the size of urea and Diammonium phosphate bags, making the manure costlier and cultivation "unsustainable".
BKU leader Naresh Chaudhary said, "At least Rs 12,000 crore worth of sugarcane farmers' dues are pending in West UP. The farmers are not getting due rates and then whatever rate they get, the payment on that also remains pending.”