Sugarcane Farmers’ Agitation in Bihar

The sugarcane farmers in Bihar are on a war path against their increased distress and sorry plight under BJP-JD(U) regime. They have not yet been paid for the last year’s produce that was procured by the mills. In the current year even after one and a half month of commencement of the season in sugar mills farmers are waiting for payments of last year’s dues as well as for the new rates of sugarcane to be announced by the government. This has caused unbearable distress among them as they can’t go ahead with the sowing of crops in Rabi season in absence of cash in hand, neither they can afford to pay for the education of children or other social activities.

CPI(ML) Bihar Secretary Kunal has informed that corruption has added additional woes to farmers’ plight. The middlemen of Cane Minister are buying sugar cane at a meagre Rs. 110-180 per quintal while the official rate is Rs. 310. Sugar mills arbitrarily declare good quality cane as of low quality and buy that at prices lower by Rs. 35 per quintal. The weighing machines used for weighing sugarcane are manipulated to weigh less to the extent of up to ten percent. Comrade Kunal has demanded resignation of state Sugarcane Minister Khursheed Alam as he is acting like an agent of mill owners, and has demanded immediate payment of dues and fixing of new rates at a minimum of Rs. 400 per quintal. He said that CPI(ML) and AIKM will protest in most affected districts like West Champaran,  Sitamarhi, Gopalganj, and Samastipur to raise these demands. On Dec 27 a West Champaran Bandh will be organised. Protests and road blockades will also be held in other districts.

The All India Kisan Mahasabha held a protest in West Champaran and burnt the effigy of the Sugarcane minister. AIKM leader Sunil Kumar Rao said that Sugarcane is produced on 45 percent arable land in the district. There is a Cane Act to protect the farmers in the state but it is not being implemented properly. The mill owners don’t even follow many verdicts given by the High Court, the District Magistrate too remain complicit with the mill owners. There used to a ‘poor day’ for the procurement of sugarcane of marginal farmers in a week, but that tradition too has been abandoned now. The private millers collect sugarcane at less than half of MSP and the purchase challans issued by the cooperative goes only to the rich and crony farmers of local MLAs and MPs.

The AIKM has also called for a protest in Samastipur on Dec 28 in Samastipur to press for the all kinds of loan waiver for farmers and to demand extension of online applications for Crop Loss compensations. AIKM leader Mahavir Poddar said in a statement that while burden of debt is rising, many farmers were left from filing the claims for crop losses hence they must now be allowed to file their due claims.

The aggrieved farmers in Champaran also organised a protest week from 15 to 22 Dec on these demands and burnt the effigies of the minister. The AIKM has demanded to file court contempt cases against the mill owners and district officials for not complying with the HC order, for paying dues along with the interest accrued, even after ten months.

Virendra Pd. Gupta, CPI(ML) central committee member based in Champaran told that the peasants in this region are also raising demands for an increase in milk procurement prices, new cold storages and for government procurement centres in every block besides their demands of total loan waiver and guaranteed crop insurance benefit in place of the current policy which fills the coffers of insurance companies with farmers’ money.

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