UP farmers burn sugarcane to protest unfair pricing

Written by Deepa Jainani | Lucknow | Updated: Oct 31 2009, 04:49am hrs
Caught in the crossfire between the Centres fair and remunerative price (FRP) and the Uttar Pradesh governments state advised price (SAP) mechanism, distressed and angry farmers have turned violent and their resentment has spilled onto the streets of major towns of western Uttar Pradesh, including Baghpat, Bijnore, Bulandshahr and Meerut.

However, addressing a huge farmers gathering from a common platform in Bareilly on Thursday, the differing farmers lobbies under Tikait, VM Singh and Baba Harkishen Singh Malik asked the teeming 20,000-odd farmers present there not to turn violent and instead surrender their memberships of the cane cooperative development societies.

That would set them free from the clutches of the state governments mechanism and they would therefore not be bound to supply cane to the millers. There is an open economy in the country. As a result, cane pricing, too, should be left to the market forces. We do not need the shackles of the cane societies to bind us, said Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathans VM Singh, adding that all the leaders have asked the farmers not to turn their anger on the sugarcane crop, which is the result of their hard toil, but instead asked them to burn their membership receipts.

Speaking to FE, Rakesh Tikait, the national spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said that all the leaders had pledged that they will not allow any sugar mill to start operations until their demand on price is met.

Furthermore, we will not allow any imported raw sugar to go inside the mills. When local farmers are not being paid adequately for the cane, why should we allow imported raw sugar to be processed, which in turn is costing Rs 35 he questions.

Stating that the call of the hour is to form a common alliance in the interest of the farmers, Mahendra Singh Tikait, the veteran BKU leader said if dissimilar political parties having opposing ideologies can form an alliance, why cant we come together for our own cause

It may be mentioned that upset over the low SAP announced by the state government and the draconian FRP, which dilutes the right of state governments to announce the state advised price (SAP), which is usually much higher than the Centres base price for cane, peeved farmers had, on Wednesday, started destroying their standing crops in protest and as many as five farmers in Bulandshahr tried to self immolate themselves on Wednesday.

Around 40 bighas of cane fields were set on fire on Wednesday and senior district cane department officials were kept under house arrest for many hours before they were set free.

According to the agitating farmers, they will not accept payment below Rs 280 as that is the input cost on the crop this year, which has already undergone many vagaries, including drought and floods.

Sharing the farmers apprehensions about FRP, Singh said that the new mechanism would, in effect, place the burden of the difference between the FRP and the SAP on the state government.

The Central Government cannot take away the right of the state governments to announce SAP, since the apex court has reinforced UPs right on this in 2004, so diluting the effect of the SAP is the main aim, Singh said adding that the move is protect the sugar millers.

In effect, this would mean that sugar millers will pay the FRP and SAP will cease to exist, because no state government will reimburse the difference between the SAP and the FRP. This move by the Centre will clearly land itself in a slew of prolonged litigations, he added.