BIJNOR: As many as 20 sugar mills, all in the private sector, still owe more than Rs 1,600 crore in dues from the previous crushing season to farmers across 50 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. Sensing how this could adversely affect BJP in the assembly elections, just weeks away, UP CM Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to recover the dues by immediately liquidating “other assets of these mills”.
But it’s easier said than done, considering the complicated process involved. Most of these mills are based in west UP, the sugar bowl of the state, spanning Lakhimpur Kheri, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Pilibhit, Saharanpur, Baghpat, Meerut, Hapur and Bulandshahr, among other districts. Here, sugar remains the pivot of politics.
According to an official of the cane department, there are 119 sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh to which around 45 lakh sugarcane growers supply their produce. On an average, at least 40,000 farmers are associated with each mill.
The defaulter mills are owned by four groups. They not only owe a total of Rs 1,600 crore from last year’s crushing season to cane growers in their respective areas, but have not paid a penny for the current season, he said.
Talking to TOI, farmer Gopi Chaudhary from Bijnor’s Jhalu area, who is associated with the mill in Bilai, said, “My family is fully dependent on sugarcane crop. The Bilai mill has failed to pay even last year’s dues. In such a situation, how can we stand with the governing party?”
Opposition parties are ready to cash in on the sombre mood among these cane growers, many of whom participated in the battle to force the Centre to repeal the three farm laws.
RLD leader Praveen Deshwal said, “These farmers will give a fitting reply in the upcoming polls.” However, state cabinet minister and BJP’s senior leader Bhupendra Singh said, “It is only the BJP government which ensured cane payments in time and launched several schemes to double farmers’ income.”