Parties play politics as cane growers wait for dues

Parties play politics as cane growers wait for dues

Ready-to-harvest sugarcane at a farm in Belagavi district.

Political parties in Karnataka have crossed swords against each other and indulged in the blame game on the sugarcane issue for electoral gains and more so every time there is an election in the pipeline.

Sugarcane farmers have been waging a long battle with sugar mills and with successive state governments, which owe them money for the crops purchased.

Deep in debt and facing repayment pressures, several farmers have even resorted to suicide. The sugar factories owe farmers over Rs 1,500 crore in dues for the financial year 2017-18. The arrears is much larger if one takes the backlog dues.

Political parties including the Congress, BJP, the JD(S), rather than sincerely address the issue are more interested in gaining electorally. In 2013, the suicide of a sugarcane grower outside Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi even as the winter session was on, shook the then Siddaramaiah government.

The opposition BJP and JD(S) demanded the resignation of Siddaramaiah. Five years down the line and the plight of the farmers remains the same.

There are sugarcane-rich districts both in the north and south Karnataka. In the north, it is Vijayapura, Belagavi and Bagalkot, while in the south substantial quantity of sugar cane is grown in Mandya and Hassan districts.

There is another angle. Politicians cutting across party lines themselves own a large number of sugar factories.

The sugar barons of Karnataka politics – the Jarkiholis, Umesh and Ramesh Katti, Rajya Sabha member Prabhakar Kore, Murgesh Nirani, Govind Karjol among others have divided the sugarcane regions among themselves with an unspoken agreement that they will not enter each other’s territories.