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UP: Shamli Tops in Sugarcane Productivity, Farmers Face Payment Delay

Thousands of farmers from Shamli and adjacent districts have been protesting for the past two months against the significantly delayed payment by sugar mill owners.

Lucknow: Shamli, a small district in western Uttar Pradesh, has clinched the top spot in sugarcane productivity in the state, with a record-breaking 1025.12 quintals per hectare during the 2022-23 crushing season. However, the Shamli district finds itself in a sticky situation when receiving payments compared to its neighbouring districts.

Hence, thousands of farmers from Shamli and adjacent districts, including Baghpat, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar, have been protesting for the past two months against the significantly delayed payment by sugar mill owners. 

The sit-in protest gained momentum on Friday after Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) extended support to the Sugarcane farmers.

On Friday, amid the farmer's protest, a mahapanchayat was held (WHERE?). It was attended by Bharatiya Kisan Union national president Naresh Tikait, RLD president Jayant Chaudhary, farmer leaders and Khap leaders along with the officials. But they failed to figure out a solution. "Farmers are being harassed. If the BJP government comes to power in 2024, farmers will not be able to survive," Tikait said.

The BKU leader further added, "The administration can pay the dues of the farmers by selling the land of sugar mills as sugarcane farmers in Shamli are facing the worst crisis ever. Farmers are constantly facing financial difficulties, and the situation of starting crushing in sugar mills is not clear yet."

RLD's Jayant Chaudhary said that the BJP government has failed in its promise of clearing sugarcane farmers' payments within 14 days. As per the Sugarcane Act of 1934, the government has to pay interest to farmers in case of delay, but nothing has been done so far, he added.

Meanwhile, Shamli Sugarcane growers decided not to celebrate Diwali in protest against the dues pending for a few years now.

The farmers have been staging protests for over two months at the Shamli Sugar Factory for their dues amounting to over Rs 338.82 crore for the last crushing season (2022-23).

The Upper Doab Sugar Mills located in Shamli city has the highest outstanding of about Rs 221.62 crore. This mill has only paid for the sugarcane supplied till January 12, 2023, whereas the mill has crushed till May 20. This is one of the oldest sugar mills in the country.

Samajwadi Party leader and the party in-charge of Kairana Lok Sabha seat, Sudhir Panwar, was part of mahapanchayat. He claimed that the "double-engine government" of the Bharatiya Janata Party is ignoring Shamli farmers out of political vendetta the saffron party lost in all assembly seats in the district.

Three districts of western Uttar Pradesh have topped in the area for sugarcane production -- Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, and Shamli. According to the data released by the sugar industry and Sugarcane Development Department, UP, the total sugarcane productivity in the state in the crushing season 2022-23 was 839.48 quintals per hectare. Muzaffarnagar with 948.84 quintals per hectare and Meerut with 914.95 quintals per hectare have second and third places in productivity, respectively.

Vijay Bahadur, District Cane Officer, said that during the 2022-23 crushing season, the Shamli mill paid only Rs 103.88 crore out of a due Rs 348.19 crore for sugarcane. Additionally, the Unn Sugar Mill paid Rs 221.66 crore against the owed Rs 338.71 crore, while Thana Bhawan Sugar Mill made a payment of Rs 206.85 crore out of Rs 440.47 crore.

He further said that they are making all possible efforts so that farmers receive their payment on time. Meanwhile, the three mill officers have claimed their economic position is terrible, and the payment is delayed.

The agitating farmers demand raising of sugarcane's State Advisory Price (SAP), which did not increase in the last crushing season and kept the SAP constant at Rs 350 per quintal for the early variety. At the same time, the Haryana government, a state sharing border with this district, has increased the SAP of sugarcane to Rs 386 per quintal for the current crushing season (2023-24), which was Rs 372 per quintal last year.

The farmers accused the Yogi Adityanath government of stepmotherly treatment despite the BJP being in power in both states.

"Farmers are reeling under debt and their condition has worsened. Being poverty-stricken, they are unable to send their children to school. The worst part is that the state government has turned a blind eye towards them," Rajeev Tomar, a farmer, told NewsClick.

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