Patna: After battling for life for eight days in a government hospital, a sugarcane farmer died in Bihar’s West Champaran district. He had suffered serious burn injuries, as he was thrown into a big pot of sugarcane juice being boiled for making jaggery. The owners of the sugarcane crusher unit reportedly threw him into the pot because he asked for the pending dues for the sugarcane supplied to them.
Bhuvaneshwar Prasad, who was in his early 50s, had reportedly asked sugarcane crusher Pintu Shah and his younger brother Bittu Shah to pay the dues for the two trailers of sugarcane supplied to them.
The incident took place at Bhariharva in Nautan.
In his statement to the local police, Prasad had said that when he demanded the dues, the owner, who was fully drunk, first abused and threatened him. Shah, along with his brother, then thrashed him and forcibly threw him in a pot of boiling sugarcane juice. Prasad was reportedly rescued by some local residents, who also informed his family.
According to police, both the accused fled after then incident and remain absconding.
West Champaran Superintendent of Police Nitasha Gudiya said that an FIR has been lodged in this connection and investigation is underway. “Police will not spare the accused; both will be arrested soon. If they remain absconding, police will attach their house”.
Nautan police station officer in-charge Sanjeev Nirala told NewsClick that raids are being conducted to arrest the accused.
West Champaran CPI(M) leader Prabhuraj Narayan Rao, who is leading the sugarcane farmers’ movement, condemned the incident and demanded that the police arrest the accused and pay compensation to Prasad’s family. “This incident exposed the ground reality of how sugarcane farmers have been struggling for their livelihood, but government is not at all concerned,” he said.
Rao said that with sugarcane crushing season underway, thousands of farmers are demanding an increase in sugarcane prices as well as payment of their dues for the sugarcane supplied to the sugar mills. They are accusing the state government of having neglected them, and of not ensuring clearance of their dues within the stipulated time.
As per the Sugarcane Development Department’s official website, there are 28 sugar mills in the state—11 operational and 17 closed.
Out of 11 operational sugar mills in Bihar, five are in West Champaran—Bagaha sugar mill, Harinagar sugar mill, Narkatiaganj sugar mill, Majhauli sugar mill and Lauria sugar mill. The sugar mill in Chanpatia has been closed. Three sugar mills are in Gopalganj district and one each in East Champaran, Sitamarhi and Samastipur districts.
The area under sugarcane cultivation was 2.69 lakh hectare in 2017-18, and it increased to 3.00 lakh hectare in 2018-19, according to the Sugarcane Development Department. The sugarcane production was 176.10 lakh MT in 2017-18 and 210.00 lakh MT in 2018-19.
The government has been working to increase sugarcane cultivation areas to 3.50 lakh hectare by 2022. It is a part of the third agriculture road map of Bihar that was launched in 2017.