After strict directions from the Punjab and Haryana High Court against blocking of the National Highway-1 in Kapurthala district, farmers on Wednesday staged dharna in the grain market of Phagwara instead. They had earlier announced a protest on NH-1. Sugarcane growers have now given an ultimatum to Punjab government to accept their demands by November 20 or face a massive protest.
In the afternoon, farmers in big numbers gathered at the grain market and after staging a protest there submitted a memorandum to Deputy Commissioner, Kapurthala.They demanded that cane price should be raised to Rs 350 per quintal, along with payment in cash, curbing taxes on farmers.
“Why Punjab government is not increasing the State Assured Price (SAP) for the past four years? It is just because government is buckling under the pressure of seven private sugar mills, which are owned by the big business houses and crushing 70 per cent cane of the state, which are earning huge profits but not ready to pay justified price to the farmers,” said president of Doaba Sangharsh Committee, Manjit Singh Rai.
High court on Tuesday had said that without official approval, the blocking of the NH-1 would be legal and had directed the state government to ensure prohibitory order under section 144 in case of any agitation.
NO hike in SAP for 4 years
Every year in November as the sugarcane crushing season farmers start protesting for a hike in SAP. The pattern has been the same for four years.
There are total 16 sugarcane mills in Punjab including 7 private and 9 state owned co-operative mills.
Strong lobbying by private mills and ‘inefficient management coupled with high production cost’ of sugar processed by state owned run co-operative mills, has been a major deterrent to governments’ agreeing to farmers’ demands. So, there has been no increase in SAP of sugarcane despite increases cost of the inputs as also higher sugarcane prices being paid in the neighbouring Haryana, which has hiked SAP to Rs 320 per qunital.
Punjab farmers are demanding Rs 350 per quital.
In Punjab, around 70 per cent cane grown on nearly one lakh hectares area is crushed by the seven private mills, which has a capacity of around 32,000 TCD (tonnes crushed per day) against 15, 766 TCD of nine cooperative mills. According to these figures 70 per cent cane payment liabilities is also of private mills.
According to the experts around 720 quital cane is grown on one hectare and with current rate farmer can earn around Rs one lakh per hectare annually after meeting input costs but if cultivation is done on rented land then he will not be able to same more than 30,000 to 40,000 per hectare annually which is highly insufficient.