Bypoll results 2018: Sugarcane farmers aren't happy with ruling BJP

If results of two bypolls in western Uttar Pradesh are any indication, then farmers in general and sugarcane farmers in particular, aren’t very happy with the ruling BJP.

Though caste and religious factors might have played a big role in the BJP’s defeat in both the bypolls, local farmers and experts said the impact of mounting sugarcane dues in the agrarian belt, along with a steep hike in electricity rates, have also played their part.  

“These results show that BJP must undertake course correction as overall sugarcane dues in UP alone have crossed Rs 135 billion, and unless strong measures are taken, the party might face a tough challenge in 2019 general elections,” Pushpendra Singh, a prominent farmer leader from west UP told Business Standard.

In fact, such was the extent of the problem that in the home district of UP’s Sugarcane Development and Sugar Mills Minister Suresh Rana, mills hadn’t paid dues amounting to almost Rs 2.27 billion.

Across the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency, that comprises the five assembly segments of Nakur, Gangoh, Kairana, Thana Bhawan and Shamli, there are almost six major sugar mills on which the region’s economy is majorly dependent.

Till mid-May, i.e. only over six months of the 2017-18 crop year, sugarcane arrears totalling Rs 8 billion hadn’t been paid to farmers by the six mills located within the constituency.

India’s sugar production in the 2017-18 season is estimated to be over 32 million tonnes, which is a staggering 45 per cent increase over the last season.

Locals said that several sugar mills simply stopped issuing indents to farmers this year, adding to the sense of despair. 

Indent (parchis in local parlance) are a sort of guarantee from the sugar mills to the farmers that the cane standing on the field would be bought. 

Bereft of the parchis and with temperatures rising, farmers simply didn’t know what to do with the acres of sugarcane standing on the field. Moreover, their value decreased each passing day. 

The result: BJP lost out on votes in the majority of five assembly segments that make up the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency. 

The Centre’s rather late response to award an incentive of Rs 5.50 per quintal directly into the bank account of farmers through the mills failed as they weren’t keen to avail the facility due to attached riders.

Sugarcane dues were below Rs 200 billion across the country at the end of 2017-18 but mounted to over Rs 220 billion in May. Of this, almost Rs 135 billion was in UP alone. 

To prevent any further damage, the Centre has decided to create a sugar buffer stock of over 3 million tonnes so as to reduce the surplus. How far this helps in assuaging sugarcane farmers' sentiment remains to be seen.


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