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Another farmer protest: UP union gears up to block Delhi highways on Jan 10

The Bhartiya Kisan Union will be blocking the Delhi-Dehradun highway to demand loosened restrictions on diesel and the payment of sugarcane dues

Kabir Agarwal | The Wire  |  New Delhi 

An elderly farmer clashes with police during the protest at the  Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Tuesday. Photo:PTI
An elderly farmer clashes with police during the protest at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Tuesday. Photo:PTI

The (BKU) will be blocking the Delhi-Dehradun highway in a few places around Muzaffarnagar on January 10. The Uttar Pradesh-based farmer organisation claims that the government has not fulfilled any of the demands that it raised on October 2 when its followers descended upon Delhi. The protests led to violence on the borders of Delhi, as the farmers were not allowed to enter the capital.

Some of the key demands of the were that

— diesel prices be reduced,

— a Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning the use of diesel vehicles older than ten years be revoked,

— pending sugarcane dues in UP be cleared.

“None of those demands has been met,” said Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson.

In response, the – founded by the farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait – has announced that it will block the busy Delhi-Dehradun highway. They also intend to stop construction work around Khatauli, as they claim that farmers have not been compensated for the land that was acquired from them.

“It has been more than two years since the land was acquired from farmers. But the farmers are yet to be compensated. We will stop construction activity in the Khatauli by-pass region where this land was acquired till the farmers are compensated in full,” said Tikait.

The BKU also wants to stop all government vehicles on the highway, find out their age and write it on these vehicles. “We know that many government buses and other vehicles are more than ten years old. Why are they not being taken off the road? Why does this rule not apply to them?” Tikait said.

“On January 10, we will start this process. We want to mark each government vehicle in the area this way so the NGT can also see that rules are applied selectively and differently,” he added.

The BKU will also raise the issue of pending sugarcane dues, the key agriculture issue in its stronghold of western UP. Last season (2017-18), pending sugarcane dues in the state mounted to Rs 22,000 crore – the highest ever – and the ruling BJP’s inability to clear dues was seen as one of the factors in its loss in the Kairana by-poll in May 2018.

Though since the beginning of the new crushing season (2018-19) in November 2018, the government has been able to clear the pending dues of the previous season to an extent, the dues of this season have already mounted to Rs 4,000 crore. In all, sugarcane farmers in UP are owed almost Rs 6,000 crores for the sugarcane they have sold to sugar mills.

“The problem is the delay in payment. In all businesses, you get payment within a certain pre-decided time when you deliver the raw material. That doesn’t happen for sugarcane farmers. We are effectively supplying raw material to sugar mills free of cost,” said Tikait.

As per the law, farmers are to be paid their dues within 14 days of when they deliver sugarcane to the mills. Beyond that point, if the mill defaults, it has to pay the farmer – on top of the principal – an interest at the rate of 15% per annum for the period of the delay. In practice, that interest is never paid.

“We are demanding that all previous dues be cleared with interest,” Tikait said.

Other farmer’s unions in the region are also planning stirs relating to the sugarcane issue. The Bhartiya Kisan Andolan will be joining hands with a dozen others in the region to organise sit-ins at all district headquarters in Western UP on January 9.

“The issue of pending dues of sugarcane remains, but this time we are also seeing that farmers are unable to sell their entire produce. They are only being allowed to sell limited quantities. We will also raise this issue,” said Kuldeep Tyagi of the Bhartiya Kisan Andolan.

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First Published: Mon, January 07 2019. 09:59 IST