Farmers from across western Uttar Pradesh have been protesting in Meerut since August 16 demanding that the government ensure that pending dues of sugarcane farmers are settled.
Several farmers’ organisations are participating in the strike, and it is expected that many more will join them. The protesting farmers have gathered at Meerut’s Chaudhary Charan Singh Park – located close to the city’s main administrative offices, where they spend the day and the night. Now, farmers are threatening to commit mass suicide if their dues are not cleared. “We want dues of all farmers in western UP to be cleared by September 1. Otherwise, we will all commit suicide right here,” said a kisan leader and president of one of the organisations spearheading the protest.
The militant farmers have declared that their protest will not cease until their dues are cleared. As one protesting farmers said “This time we will not rest till our payment is cleared. We have been given many assurances in the past, but, nothing has happened. This time we want to see action. We want our dues to be paid.”
The farmers are questioning the purpose behind Centre’s relief package, supposedly to address the ‘current crisis in the sugar industry’. The central government had announced a relief package of Rs. 7000 crores for the sugar industry in June. However, the farmers got nothing out of this. as on 20th August, the pending dues to farmers in UP from sugar mills was Rs.10,622 crore.
The farmers are very clear that they have been deceived. “Bewakooof banaya hai ji aur kuch nahi. Package mein kisan ke liye to kuch tha hi nahi. Koi mill payment nahi kar rahi hai. Kahani wahan ki wahan hi atki hui hai. (They have only fooled us, nothing else. The package did not offer anything to farmers. No mill is making payments to farmers. The story is stuck where it was).
Sugarcane farmers across western UP have been protesting periodically over the last two months. Farmers in Muzaffarnagar held a sit-in protest at the gates of a sugar mill in mid-July. In Bijnor, farmers have protested against the early closure of the local sugar mill and forced liquor stores owned by the proprietors of the sugar mill to close.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union is planning a march from Haridwar to Delhi in September. The demand for prompt payment of dues from the sugar mills figures prominently among their broader demands of a one-time farm loan waiver and implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.