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Karnataka: Sugarcane Farmers Block Highways Across State Demanding Higher Rates

The Association called a highway bandh against the Central government’s paltry hike in fair and remunerative prices and the proposed Electricity Bill.
Trucks, India

Representational image. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Bengaluru: Long lines of passenger vehicles were seen at Columbia Hospital Circle in Mysore on Friday due to an hour-long highway bandh by sugarcane farmers. They were protesting the meagre hike in Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) rates of sugarcane and the privatisation of electricity through the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022. The FRP rates (fixed by the government) are to be paid by sugar mills to cane farmers for their produce.

Addressing the protest, Kurubur Shanthakumar,  state president of the Sugarcane Growers’ Association, said:  “the price of fertiliser (potash) has increased by Rs 900 per bag, di-amonium phosphate (DAP) has increased by Rs 350, wages of harvest labourers have increased by Rs 400, the price of seeds has increased by Rs. 500 per acre. But in the current year, the Central government has raised the FRP by only Rs. 15/quintal which comes to Rs. 3,050/tonne. This is unfair to the sugarcane growers”.

The base recovery rate of sugar from sugarcane has also been increased from 10% to 10.25% and the farmers allege that this leads to a loss of Rs. 75/tonne. They accused the Central government of “dancing to the tune” of mill owners and sugar barons.

On August 3, the Centre announced the FRP for the 2022-23 season (October -September) at Rs. 305/qtl for a basic recovery rate of 10.25%, providing a premium of Rs. 3.05/qtl for each 0.1% increase in recovery over and above 10.25%, & reduction in FRP by Rs. 3.05/qtl for every 0.1% decrease in recovery. During the last season, the FRP rates were Rs. 290/quintal, i.e. Rs. 2900/tonne.

Farmers also feel that the Central government's “power privatisation” Bill would stop free electricity supply to agricultural pumpsets. They are demanding that privatisation in the power sector should be abandoned. Also, they are demanding compensation for crop loss due to excessive rainfall. The association has urged the government to take steps to avoid shortage of urea and DAP fertiliser.

“We demand the abolition of GST (goods and services tax) levied on curd, buttermilk, agricultural equipment, drip irrigation equipment, fertiliser, pesticide, etc.,” said Shanthakumar, adding that  “the 28 Lok Sabha MPs (from the state) had betrayed the farmers by staying silent on the issue”.

The association said roadblocks were held at Davanagere, Gulbarga, Belgaum, Gadag, Bagalkote, Dharwad, Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Nanjangudu, T Narsipur, Bannur, Kuruburu, HD Kote Hampura. The farmers warned that they were prepared to lay siege to the Vidhan Sabha and wage a ‘Delhi-style’ struggle, according to the association.

The protestors are also demanding roll-back of Reserve Bank of India’s policy that requires banks to ascertain CIBIL scores (to check their creditworthinesss) of farmers before sanctioning loans.

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