Cane farmers may serve Mulayam bitter poll results

Cane farmers may serve Mulayam bitter poll results

The sweet smell of jaggery and the smoke billowing from the sugar mills that dot this belt in west Uttar Pradesh, the country's second largest sugar producing state, belies the resentment that simmers within the region’s farmers who form a large part of the electorate here and in some other parts of the state.

The farmers are sore with the Akhilesh Yadav government for not helping them reclaim their debts from the private sugar mills, which run into thousands of crores.

Private sugar mills owed the farmers a whopping Rs 8,000 crore at the end of the 2012-13 crushing season. In the midst of claims by the state government that the mills would be forced to clear their dues, the arrears this season have jumped to Rs 12,000 crore and are increasing with everyday.

The cane farmers are very angry and are feeling betrayed by the administration. They make no attempt to hide this.

“The cane issue will certainly have an impact on the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, especially on the seats in the region as lakhs of people are directly or indirectly connected to cane farming and sugar industry,” says Suresh Chandra Verma, a cane farmer.

Official figures peg the state’s annual sugar industry turnover at Rs 35,000 crore, with around 45 lakh farmers dependent on it for their livelihood. The last quarter of 2013 witnessed much upheaval in the sugar industry with private mills refusing to start crushing, citing excessive minimum support price of sugarcane. The delayed start of the crushing hurt farmers. Some even committed suicide due to defaults on loan repayments.

However, trucks and tractor-trolleys were still seen being loaded with cane to be taken to the mills. Unharvested sugarcane could also be seen in the fields of Lakhmipur-Kheri, Moradabad, Bijnore, Muzaffarnagar and other cane producing districts. The cane farmers had held demonstrations at several places in the region demanding clearance of cane dues. “The sugar politics has a close connection with the polls... the SP will face the consequences in the elections,” said Verma.

“Bahut nuksan hua hai is baar hamara” (we have suffered great losses this time), said Arif, a cane farmer, as he supervises jaggery being made in his home, near Jansath in Muzaffarnagar.

Opposition parties have been trying to keep the matter relevant at least till polling day. Even SP supporters concede that it could affect their electoral fortunes.

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