For eight days now, 400 tractors carrying 50 quintals of sugarcane each have surrounded a sugar mill in Shamli where hundreds of cane farmers continue to protests against the non-payment of dues. The farmers, from 52 villages in Shamli, say they have been denied dues around Rs 220 crore, including Rs 80 crore from the previous season, by mill authorities and since January 15 have camped outside the mill even as authorities stopped certain operations of the factory.
Shamli district magistrate Akhilesh Singh has met farmers and said Wednesday that a feasible solution was possible in the next 20 days and that an FIR has been filed against the sugar mill.
The protest has also triggered politicking in the region between the RLD MP, Tabassum Hasan and the local BJP MLA Tejendra Nirwal. While Hasan targeted the BJP in the central and state governments for ignoring the needs of farmers, Nirwal blamed mill authorities. According to RLD sources, Jayant Chaudhary, National-Vice President and former MP, will address the gathering Thursday.
The protest is self-sustained as farmers themselves have contributed money for all expenses. Villages are assigned duties of food and water. “I live in Laprana village which is barely a few kilometres from here. Now, my dues have gone over Rs 2 lakh and I only grow sugarcane. I need money to sustain my family and the well-being of my three children. They don’t understand our plight”, he said.
Ajit Chaudhary, a farmer from Jitoli, said: “I am speaking to my wife who is back home hoping for good news. She often keeps getting sick and we have medical bills. If this continues, I will have to stop sugarcane farming and switch to wheat. The tall promises made by the government regarding sugarcane pricing and other benefits were merely words.
According to the district magistrate Singh, an FIR has been filed on charges of cheating and other relevant sections of the IPC against the mill. “We will be attaching the properties of the owners and a Recovery Certificate has been issued. Auctioning of the sugar stock has will soon take place, the proceeds of which will be given to the farmers,” he said.
Meanwhile, mill authorities have accepted the delay on their part and said they are looking to make the payments in the coming week. “The government had a policy of giving soft loans for outstanding payments. But we missed the deadline for application in December by two days. A delay was also made in the Rs 80 crore payment due last season.
Our reputation as a mill has been great and it’s just in the last few years, due to volatile sugar prices, we have been suffering losses. We look to resolve this soon,” said R K Gupta, General Manager (Security) of Shamli Sugar Mills.
Gifted to Shadi Lal Enterprises by the British in 1933, the mill has a capacity of processing 70,000 quintals per day for sugar and molasses production and also has a distillery division which is in full operation.
In the current 2018-19 season (October-November), sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh have bought cane worth Rs 13,749.58 crore from farmers at the state government’s average “advised” price (SAP) of around Rs 318 per quintal, as per official data available until Wednesday.
So far, the outstanding cane arrears to farmers is Rs 6,981.46 crore with the prospect of this even doubling by the time Lok Sabha polls are due. The Upper Doab Sugar Mill at Shamli alone has arrears of Rs 185.02 crore, as against Rs 484.84 crore of SAP payments, which was to have been made during the last and the ongoing season.