New Delhi: Around 1500 farmers – all men – have been marching towards Delhi since September 17 from Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh. Among their demands are that their unpaid sugarcane dues be cleared immediately, that they be given a one-time unconditional loan waiver and that the tributaries of the Ganga in western Uttar Pradesh be cleaned.
The protests reached Noida on Friday where representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare met them. But the talks did not yield any results. The farmers will restart their march from Noida at 7 am and reach Kisan Ghat in Delhi at around 9 am.
“They sent someone to talk to us. He had no idea about our demands and he could not promise anything. We are only demanding what is our right and that itself has become very difficult for this government to understand,” said Rajendra Yadav, the state president of the Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan, an Uttar Pradesh-based organisation that is steering the protest.
Sugarcane dues in the state continue to be over Rs 6,000 crore for the 2018-19 season, more than four months after the season has ended and crushing has been done with. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had set a deadline of August 31 for sugar mills to clear unpaid dues of farmers. Some district administrations also announced that if dues remain unpaid they will lodge FIRs against mill owners and management. But the deadline has come and gone, the dues remain unpaid and administration has taken little action.
According to the law, sugar mills are required to clear dues of farmers within 14 days of them depositing the sugarcane. If there are delays in payment, an interest of 15% per annum for the period of the delay has to be paid to farmers in addition to the principal.
But, in practice, neither of the above are followed in UP. Sugar mills are notorious for delaying payments by several months and sometimes even a year. No interest payment is made to farmers either in cases of delay.
The farmers who are marching to Delhi want these issues ironed out and the law be implemented in letter and spirit.
“We want sugar mills to pay on time every year. We have to take to the streets every year to get our payment. We will be giving a letter to [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi to look into our demands and take necessary action,” said Yadav.