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UP: Kushinagar Sugarcane Farmers Demand Rs 44 Crore Dues

The farmers are also demanding free electricity for irrigation and grants for borewells, tubewells, ponds and tanks, as promised by BJP during the last Assembly election.
sugarcane farmers

Representative image. | Image courtesy: flickr

Lucknow: Sugarcane farmers of Kaptanganj sugar mill, in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and surrounding villages have been protesting outside the tehsil under the banner of multiple unions demanding payment of around Rs 44 crore due for the ongoing crushing season for almost two weeks.

The farmers are also demanding free electricity for irrigation and grants for borewells, tube wells, ponds and tanks as promised by the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government during the last Assembly election. 

“The state government has paid no attention to our plight. We have been staging a protest for nearly two weeks but to no avail. The mill didn’t follow the government regulation of paying dues within two weeks,” Rajesh Singh, a protesting farmer, told Newsclick.

The farmers said that they will not let the sugar mill operate until the dues are cleared. 

“The farmers don’t even have money to buy inputs to grow crops, buy medicines or pay school fees of their children. Where are we supposed to go? The government had promised that the dues would be paid within 15 days of selling our produce to the mills,” Ramchandra Singh, who heads the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Ambawata, told Newsclick.

It has been almost five months since the Kaptanganj sugar mill stopped crushing operations in the 2021-22 season. Yet it has not cleared dues to either  farmers or the commission to cooperative sugarcane development societies. 

“We are suffering. The new crushing season is about to start but the sugar mill hasn’t paid my last year’s dues. So, how are we going to get the early payment for this season?” asked Ashok Yadav, a farmer whose Rs 3.5 lakh is still pending with the Kaptanganj sugar mill.

The farmers are also demanding free electricity for irrigation. “The BJP had promised free electricity for irrigation during the Assembly election and to pay cane growers within 14 days of delivery to mills. It was only to woo voters,” Yadav added.

The police booked protesters, including former Samajwadi Party minister Radheshyam Singh and 20-30 others, on Thursday for allegedly violating Section 144 of the CrPC by demonstrating outside the tehsil.

Raghvendra, a farmer not associated with any union, said, “The mill owes me more than Rs 4 lakh. It’s been more than five months since the mill stopped crushing cane but we are yet to receive this year’s payment. The recent rains have damaged my paddy, potato and sugarcane crops but the government hasn’t helped me so far.”

“We are only being given assurances for the last five months. We have also written to chief minister Yogi Adityanath but nothing seems to be working,” Raghvendra told Newsclick.

With the new crushing season starting in October, both private and cooperative sugar mills have been unable to pay dues on time.

Harinam Singh Verma, UP chief of BKU (Apolitical)—the newly formed outfit—told Newsclick, “This year, the crop was invaded by pests and thousands of rupees have been already spent on insecticides. Farmers need money at the earliest because we have borrowed money to meet such expenses.”

Verma said that farmers have “already requested the administration to start the season by the first week of November but haven’t received a response. The government must think about the farmers sympathetically and release money”.

Meanwhile, the mill has fired around 200 workers without notice. The workers alleged that they were fired after demanding their monthly honorarium, which has not been paid for the last several months.

“The mill, which stopped operating five or six months ago, has neither paid the monthly honorarium nor dues. We heard that the owners are planning to sell the mill and the land. If it is true, from where will we recover our money?” asked Dheeraj, one of the mill workers.

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