The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Friday joined the protest of sugarcane farmers in Bijnor district and also wrote a letter to the Election Commission threatening to boycott the polls in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, if the pending dues were not paid soon.
The farmers have been staging a protest at Chandpur tehsil in Bijnor for the last one month over pending dues of around Rs 62 crore owed by two sugar mills – PBS Food Limited, Chandpur, and Wave Sugar Industry in the district.
As per government records, 24 sugar mills across the state owe around Rs 900 crore to the farmers for financial year 2017-18. According to the state cane department, 14 of the 24 sugar mills are in West UP.
The Sugar Industry and Cane Development Department claimed that out of the total sugarcane dues of Rs 35,463 crore for financial year 2017-18, payment of around Rs 34,000 crore has been made so far by the mills in the state.
“Dues of around Rs 900 crore are still pending. Of the 24 sugar mills, recovery certificates have been issued and FIRs have been lodged against authorities of 10 sugar mills against whom heavy dues are pending,” said additional cane commissioner, V K Shukla.
BKU leaders held a panchayat with the farmers in Bijnor and decided to stage a protest outside the residences of the MP and MLAs in the district on February 6. BKU leaders also threatened to seize business establishments belonging to the sugar mill owners, if the dues are not paid soon.
Fear of fresh agitation lingers in cane belt
It appears to be an uphill task to get the dues of Rs 900 crore cleared by February 15, the deadline principal secretary of the sugar industry and cane department set for the 24 sugar mills. The government had issued recovery certificates and also had lodged FIRs on 10 of these mills in December, but the action did not have any effect on the owners. Also, the owners always have the option to seek legal help in stalling the procedure of auction.
“Farmers have been protesting at Chandpur tehsil since January 2. The district administration had promised to get the dues cleared by January 31. After it failed to keep its promise, we decided to join the protest,” said BKU’s Bijnor district president, Digamber Singh. “On Thursday, we held a panchayat at the tehsil which was attended by two farmers from each village in the district. It was decided that since the administration has failed to help the farmers, we will stage protest outside the residences of all the public representatives, including MP and MLAs, on February 6. We have sent a letter to all the public representatives in this regard,” he added.
“Besides, we have also decided to boycott the Lok Sabha elections this year and have also intimated the Uttar Pradesh Election Commission regarding the same. We have also highlighted how the BJP government has failed to fulfill its promise made in the manifesto regarding clearing sugarcane dues in just 24 days after coming to power,” said Singh, adding that they are collecting details of other business establishments of the two sugar mills to take them in possession.
Reacting to the threat by BKU, additional district magistrate of Bijnor, Vinod Kumar Gaur said, “We are holding talks with the farmers and trying to persuade them to withdraw the protest.” District Cane Officer, Bijnor, Yashpal Singh, said that while PBS Food Limited owes around Rs 35 crore, Wave Sugar Industry owes Rs 26.32 crore for the financial year 2017-18. “Both the mills are owned by Manpreet Singh Chaddha. Since the sugar mills failed to pay the dues, an FIR has been lodged against Chaddha and also the mill’s chairman, director and the occupier on relevant charges under Essential Commodities Act last week. No recovery certificate has been issued on both the sugar mills so far,” said Yashpal Singh.
Earlier, farmers in Shamli had forcibly stopped operations at Upper Doab Sugar Mills for 11 days in protest over non-payment of sugarcane dues. The protest was withdrawn on January 26 after the district administration assured them that the dues of Rs 80 crore will be paid by February 11.
When contacted, Sanjay Bhoosreddy, Principal Secretary, Sugar Industry & Cane Development Department, said, “So far, 98 per cent payments for financial year 2017-18 have been paid to the farmers in which 119 sugar mills have cleared their dues. Now, 24 sugar mills are yet to make the payment. We are putting pressure on these sugar mills to clear the dues and hope that by February 15 all dues will be cleared.”