Bhartiya Kisan Union to hold Maha Panchayat on Feb 10

Farmers on indefinite strike demand guaranteed MSP & payment of sugarcane dues


February 8, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

Bhartiya Kisan Union to hold Maha Panchayat on Feb 10

Farmers to hold a Maha Panchayat on February 10 to raise their demands and decide the fate of their strike

Scores of farmers affiliated with Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) have been sitting on an indefinite strike since January 28 at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, seeking legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP), payment dues of sugarcane, and cancellation of power tariff hikes, among other demands. The farmers threaten to hold a Maha Panchayat on February 10 to raise their demands and decide the fate of their strike.

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Almost a year after the farmers called off their indefinite strike in Delhi against three farming laws of the union government, following assurances by the government, a group of farmers, affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) have been on a protest since January 28, saying that the government did not fulfil any of the promises made to them a year ago.

The farmers, in smaller groups, have been protesting in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, about 120 km east of Delhi. The indefinite strike led by the national spokesperson of BKU, Rakesh Tikait, is being held to push the government to fulfil its promises made last year.

The farmers say that on February 10, Bhartiya Kisan Union will hold a Maha Panchayat to force the government to provide a legal guarantee for the payment of minimum support price for the farmers’ produce as well as retraction of the hikes in electricity prices and also clearance of dues that various sugarcane mills owe to the farmers.

The farmers say that as the government has been putting various restrictions on them, including imposing a phase-out of old tractors, the Maha Panchayat on Friday will be held in 10-year-old tractors to protest against the ban on old vehicles. “The purpose of holding a Maha Panchayat is to send out a larger message that the farmers are upset over the ban on diesel vehicles, including tractors that are over 10 years old,” Tikait, National Spokesperson of BKU, tells Media India Group.

“We are also going to discuss the government’s unfulfilled promises on pending sugarcane dues, new sugarcane state advised price (SAP), electricity meter installed on tube well, and will be demanding a legal guarantee on MSP,” Tikait adds.

He also accuses the government of misleading the farmers over the payment of MSP. “We will be continuing the protest if our demands will not be fulfilled on time. No one from the government has approached us since the protest began and they are only misleading us. Even the recent budget for 2023 is not in favour of farmers. The schemes are totally a way to let the farmers go into debt, lose their lands, and pay the prices for their loss,” Tikait says.

The BKU leader says that due to the non-payment of dues, many farmers are facing many problems in terms of finance and are compelled to shift back to the wheat-paddy circle.

“We are demanding a guarantee on MSP, and pay dues of sugarcane, we are also opposing forceful land acquisitions and stray cattle menace. It is been a long that we are raising our voices, but no one is ready to listen to us. Because of this, we are suffering and facing hardships in our lives. There is no proper law for farmers which can be profitable to us instead of that there are such laws that are meant to add more to our miseries,” Nirmal Singh, a 58-year-old farmer from Uttar Pradesh, tells Media India Group.

“Due to non-payment of our sugarcane dues, our families are also suffering because we do not have enough money to sustain and feed our children anymore. Our livelihood is depending on agricultural activities only and without money, where I will go and feed my children,” Singh adds.

Though the farmers claim that they are owed billions, the UP government claims that it has so far paid INR 1947.5 billion to the farmers. It says that so far in the current crushing season, it has paid over 70 pc of dues, while for the last season, it has paid 97.79 pc and before that, it has cleared 99.97 pc dues. The farmers have another story to share, though. Many claim that not only are their older dues pending, but even for the current crushing season, they do not know at what rate will the payment be done.

The farmers claim that all of the sugarcane mills that run in the state are exploiting them and the government was not listening to their woes, which will compel them to give up sugarcane farming in the coming years. “We have been deceived by the government which keeps on saying that our demands would be fulfilled but it has never happened and no such decision has been taken in our favour until now. In addition, these sugarcane mills are not paying our dues for the last year now and are exploiting us. As per the rules, our payments should be released within 14 days of selling the product, but our dues are pending since years and we are compelled to shift back to the wheat-paddy circle to earn and sustain,” Gurinder Gill, a 62-year-old farmer from Haryana, tells Media India Group.

“Not only this is the problem but the stray cattle menace is also a big issue for us because our crops are destroyed by the cattle at night, even if we guard the crops which results in losses for us in terms of production. The government once announced that they would be building cattle sheds but no construction has taken place and we are being put under stress because of increasing problems every day,” Gill adds.

The farmers also raised the issue that the current sugarcane-crushing season 2022-23 is close to its halfway, and the Uttar Pradesh government is yet to announce the state advisory price (SAP) for sugarcane. The sugar mills are paying the cane farmers as per the SAP fixed for the last cane-crushing season in 2021-22. The current SAP is INR 350 per quintal for the early variety of sugarcane, INR 340 per quintal for the general variety, and INR 335 per quintal rejected variety. The farmers are demanding an increase of INR 50 per quintal for each category.

The farmers also claim that the government had promised to reduce the power tariffs in Uttar Pradesh before the 2022 assembly elections but it has not been fulfilled and the administration has started installing electric meters. They also claim that while in Haryana farmers pay around INR 123/HP for electricity, in Uttar Pradesh they are made to pay INR 175/HP. Meanwhile, in Punjab and Tamil Nadu, electricity is free of cost, they say.

“Due to all these issues we are going through currently, it is not easy to feed our children, manage our finances and pay the school fees of our children. To support our families financially, we sell milk so that we can manage the expenses and become a support system for our husbands in terms of finance. It is very distressing to see that we are not able to feed our children, we only know how we are surviving and facing everything and inflation is an addition to our miseries. We only want our demands to be fulfilled so that we can live at ease,” says Sonia Sen, President of BKU’s women wing or BKU Mahila in Muzaffarnagar.



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