Bihar cane farmers in distress

The sugar cane farmers of Bihar are in distress as the government has not yet announced the cane price for the mill owners for the current season. The farmers are also agitated with the mill owners over non-payment of their dues. Speaking to The Hindu over phone, sugar cane farmers of West Champaran, the district where most of the sugar mills are located, said five mills in the district alone owe Rs. 231.98 crore to them. “Sugar cane payment dues for the current season of 2018-19 by the mills of Bagaha, Harinagar, Narkatiaganj, Majhaulia and Lauria have gone up to the tune of Rs. 231.98 crore. We are in deep distress but there is no one to address our problem,” rued Nandeshwar Pandey, a young farmer from Pathakauli village. Bihar has a total of 12 sugar mills. The farmers of West Champaran further said that they have supplied about 74.75 lakh quintals of sugar cane to these five sugar mills till December 8 this year, spending Rs. 57.93 crore in the process. “We expected to be paid after a fortnight of the supply as it is mandatory for the sugar mills under the Sugar cane Purchase and Supply Act to make the payment and any delay invites interest at the current bank rate,” said Pramod Singh, another farmer. “However, till date, not a single penny has been paid,” he added. Most of the farmers had taken loan from banks through Kisan Credit Card and now they say they are being chased by the certificate officers of the banks for repayment of the loan. Living in penury “The government at the Centre had announced that farmers’ income would double by 2022, but the sugar cane farmers in Bihar have stopped celebrating social and religious functions due to lack of funds. We are unable to pay even the tuition fees of our children… we are on the verge of starvation,” said Rajan Giri, a farmer. He added that the farmers are not being able to go for the kharif cultivation as “they don’t have money to buy seeds and fertilizers”. The sugar cane farmers of West Champaran particularly angry with State Sugar Cane Development Minister Khurshid alias Firoz Ahmad who represents Sikta Assembly constituency from the same district. “The government is serious on the issue and I have asked the principal secretary of the department to announce the sugarcane price soon. It will be announced in a day or two. The Chief Minister himself had a meeting with officials to address the issue,” the Minister told The Hindu. His assurance, however, has failed to pacify the farmers who burnt his effigy near the Bhimrao Ambedkar statue at Bagaha on December 15.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/bihar-cane-farmers-in-distress/article25785756.ece

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