Farmers of Western UP: They stopped us from entering Delhi, won’t let them rule Delhi in 2019

The sugarcane farmers of western Uttar Pradesh are very angry. They’ve been waiting for their payment, their crops are ready but sugar mills are still closed. They held a meeting to voice their anger

NH Photo by Aas Mohd Kaif
NH Photo by Aas Mohd Kaif

Aas Mohd Kaif

Sisauli, 30 km away from the district headquarters, is the place where the great leader of the farmers Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait was born. This is where Bharatiya Kisan Union was formed, and the place is considered by the farmers as their ‘capital’.

On Sunday, thousands of farmers gathered in the nearby Bhorakalan village once again. All of them came on short notice, it was not a pre-announced meeting. The farmers felt that they needed to prepare a strategy for their rights and thousands of farmers gathered to discuss it. There was great resentment against the government in these farmers. Almost every speaker criticised the government and called it deceitful. There were outbursts over the non-payment of sugarcane crops and the farmers were very annoyed at not getting the right price for their crop.

This Panchayat was organised by Bharatiya Kisan Union. Bharatiya Kisan Union had organised a march from 23 September to 2 October, in which thousands of farmers were gathered. Before the procession of farmers could enter Delhi, the police used lathicharge and water canons to stop them and the march was abruptly called off after that.

According to the spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Dharmendra Malik, “Farmers retreated because of the circumstances and to avoid confrontation between the security forces and the farmers. But the government did not accept our two most important demands and that is pinching us even now. The promises made by the BJP in its manifesto all proved to be false. Farmers feel cheated.

It is important to note here that sugarcane crop and its payment to the farmers have always played a significant role in the politics of Uttar Pradesh. More than half of the state’s economy depends on sugarcane. Many leaders in the past have gained significant political influence by fighting for a fair price for sugarcane crop

The payment of sugarcane to the farmers is still pending, the government's sympathies are with the mill owners. The C-2 formula for Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers was not implemented. We will form a new strategy to pressurise the government. For us the farmers’ interests are of utmost importance. This panchayat was attended by the general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union Rakesh Tikait. The farmers poured out their anger before him. Rakesh Tikait said during the Panchayat that the way the farmers were ‘welcomed’ by water cannons when they reached near Delhi, the farmers too will welcome the ruling leaders in the same manner in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

On the same day about one thousand farmers gathered at 11 am in Bhopa village of Mirapur constituency, 40 km away. The main topic of their discussion was the payment for sugarcane crop. This was comparatively a small gathering. But these kinds of Panchayats are now being held quite frequently in the surrounding areas. The farmer leader Manoj Balian said that the farmers will now give a mandate against the government in 2019 because all their promises have been proved false.

It is important to note here that sugarcane crop and its payment to the farmers have always played a significant role in the politics of Uttar Pradesh. More than half of the state’s economy depends on sugarcane. Many leaders in the past have gained significant political influence by fighting for a fair price for sugarcane crop. The payment of sugarcane crop has always been a problem. This time the government had promised to pay the sugarcane dues within 14 days but it did not happen. According to farmer from Shamli, Jitendra Hooda, who is well aware of the case, the payment worth ₹11 thousand crores for sugarcane crop is still pending. Farmers depend on this money for their children’s education daughters’ marriages and many such important things of life.

As the elections are now drawing closer, the government promptly announced a package of ₹8500 crore, but the total outstanding was ₹22 thousand crore. So, now it has come to ₹11 thousand crores. The farmers are yet to receive the payment for the sugarcane which they supplied to the sugar mills from January to May this year. At present the sugarcane crop is ready to be reaped and the small crushers for making jaggery are functioning in the rural areas of western UP. But the sugar mills are closed. Farmers are also demanding to open the sugar mills as soon as possible, otherwise the sugarcane starts drying and its weight gets reduced.

The power of sugarcane has been witnessed in Kairana by-election.

Last year, more than 100 lakh tonnes of sugar was produced in Uttar Pradesh. In districts like Saharanpur, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Meerut, the farmers only cultivate sugarcane. In Deoria, Gorakhpur, Basti of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, sugarcane is an important crop. Hence, Uttar Pradesh is the number one producer of sugar in the country.

Rajpal Singh, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, points out what the basic problem is. He says, “I grew sugarcane on 10 bigha land and supplied sugarcane worth ₹5 lakhs to the sugar mill. The mill has given me only ₹1.25 lakh. I have been waiting for the rest of the payment. I am not able to pay my children’s school fees and now I have a lot of loan also to be paid. I face a lot of embarrassment in the family. At times I feel very angry. My labourers are also asking for their payment. I am forced to buy even medicines for my children on credit.”

About 35 lakh farmers are facing the same problem as Rajpal. Recently, On September 25, the High Court has issued a contempt notice to Uttar Pradesh's Sugarcane Commissioner Sanjay Bhoosreddy regarding the payment of sugarcane farmers. This notice was issued on the petition by the farmers’ leader VM Singh. VM Singh is well-known for fighting legal cases for the farmers.

Farmers in the state are coming together. The farmers of Bijnor, Amroha and Sambhal etc have banned the entry of the BJP leaders in their villages. There is a board outside these villages saying 'the entry of the BJP leaders is forbidden here.’

The farmers of Bijnor have been demonstrating for the last 40 days in Dhampur. Farmers of this region have been struggling for the ownership rights of Afzalgarh farmers. A Mahapanchayat has also been announced.

The land of many farmers from Bijnor, Sambhal and Amroha was acquired by the government. The farmers have been fighting for the compensation of their land too. In September thousands of farmers staged a protest in the collectorate on this issue. The leader of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangh VM Singh has called for Dilli Chalo! Campaign in November.

Another major problem for farmers is electricity and they are now fed up with the constantly increasing price of electricity. Farmers have given a final warning to the administration to start the sugar mills by October 25 or else they will start stacking the sugarcane in the collector’s office.

The most significant fact is that now the farmers have come together putting aside their differences and united they are voicing their opinions on all these issues.

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