Sugarcane stir

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Saturday 15 November 2008

UP farmers demand payment, power

sugarcane farmers of Uttar Pradesh have been on a sit-in protest at the Baraut block office in Baghpat district since September 5. Led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union, they are demanding payment of arrears by sugar mills for the last season (2007-08) and a higher price for sugarcane.

While the farmers wanted Rs 1,650 per tonne of the crop, mill owners agreed to pay Rs 1,120 per tonne. The stand-off was partially resolved on October 18, when the Uttar Pradesh government increased the state advised price for the current season to Rs 1,400 per tonne for the common sugarcane variety. "The government has come close to meeting our demands," said Rajinder Singh, head of Qasimpur Kheri village in Baghpat.

The farmers are, however, continuing the protest. They are demanding compensation for the loss of crops due to floods in the Ganga and the Yamuna and regularization of electricity supply.

On October 18, union leader M S Tikait, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and over a hundred thousand farmers joined the dharna. The farmers have laid out a 10-point agenda for the government. "If our demands are not fulfilled we will revolt," union member Upendra Tomar threatened.

"The state government increased the power of our connections from seven horsepower to 15 horsepower last year. We have had to change our irrigation units accordingly. This is costly," said Singh. The farmers want the government to give them an option of a lower horsepower connection.

They complained that a fixed monthly charge for electricity was not justified because electricity was available for barely three hours a day, mostly at night. The state had taken Rs 5,000 for installing meters from farmers but is yet to do so. The farmers want the government to regularize the transformers set up by big farmers and not to charge the meter and capacitor fees.

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