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Elections 2019: Why Sugarcane Farmers of Western UP Are a Sour Lot

This is part one of Newsclick’s ground report from the sugarcane belt in West UP. The second part will discuss the per bigha losses and its impact on farmers.
 Sugarcane Farmers

Representational image. | Image Courtesy: India Today

Muzaffarnagar: Harendra Panwar, who goes with his moniker, Pintu, is busy getting his sugarcane weighed on a temporary weighing scale installed in a field on Beena bypass, around seven kilometers from the Muzaffarnagar district headquarters.

Panwar says he has nine members in his family and the main occupation of the family is agriculture. The 36-year-old cane farmer says his family has been sowing the crop since the past many decades but is now thinking of quitting cane farming and planting Poplar trees used in the plywood industry, which does not involve a lot of production cost and effort.

Ghaate ka sauda karke kya faayda. Sarkaar ne to wada kiya tha 14 din me paisa dene ka lekin abhi teen mahine ka bhugtaan ruka pada hai jee. Sarkaar hamara paisa rok sakti hai lekin hamari jarurat ke cheej to paise dene par hi milegi na. Hame koi udhaar kyu dega,” says Pawar, wrinkling his forehead. (What is the use of selling our crops on loss? The government (BJP) in its last election manifesto had promised us to clear our debts within 14 days but I have yet not been paid for the sugarcane of last three months. The government will pay us later for the sugarcane but what about our needs. Who is going to give us things of our need on credit).

The sugarcane farmer, who got receipt for 18 quintals of sugarcane on his tractor trolley, says he is going to the sugar mill with a heavy heart as he has a lot of liabilities on his head, while his Rs 75,000 have not yet been paid by the government.

“I have school-going children and elderly parents who need medicines. From where I will get the money for this? I do not know what I will do. I will try to borrow from my relatives or family members and in case I do not get money from them then I will take a loan on interest from local money lenders. This is the situation. The government has to pay me my money and I am being forced to take a loan,” he adds.

Another young farmer, Mukul Sharma, 19, who will be voting for the first time this year, said he was disheartened with the working of the Yogi Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh as his family was suffering a lot due to the delay in cane payments.

“My vote would have gone to Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), but what is the use of voting for him when we have to suffer. We have to beg for the money. We are two brothers, and one in the Army. I was happy that Modiji gave respect to soldiers but what do we do with respect when we do not have any money to buy food and things that are required for daily needs,” he said.

The first-time voter said he was excited about exercising his franchise and he was still thinking/calculating about whom to vote for.

Dharmendra Malik, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson, who is also one of the big faces of farmers’s struggles in Western UP, said the  government had failed to deliver its promise of clearing the debts of farmers within two weeks.

“Sugarcane is just not a crop in Jat land. It makes the government and it uproots the government. The farmers are upset with the delay in payments and fake assurances of the government,” Malik said, adding with disappointment that voting in Jatland was done on the basis of caste and not on issues.

According to an Indian Express report, sugarcane dues in UP are above Rs 10,000 crore, with 45% of these in six out of eight constituencies that go to polls on April 11.

Sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh have bought cane worth Rs 24,888.65 crore in in the present crushing season and the average rate per quintal of sugarcane given to farmers is Rs 320 per quintal.

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