Even as the Uttar Pradesh government is basking in the ‘historic’ glow of Rs 1 lakh crore cane payments made to farmers by the end of crushing season 2019-20, the state’s mills still have whopping arrears of around Rs 14,800 crore piled against the cane purchased from farmers, the highest ever cane dues in the state.
According to data accessed by FE, as on June 18, the 119 sugar mills that operated in this season have already paid Rs 20,800 crore, while Rs 14,800 crore is still pending, out of which the 92 private sugar mills owe approximately Rs 13,300 crore, while the UP Cooperative sugar mills owe Rs 1,280 crore and the UP Sugar Corporation owes Rs 230 crore.
The payment of Rs 20,800 crore is slightly more than 58% of the total cane dues during the season, when mills crushed 1,116 lakh tonne of sugarcane to produce 126.5 lakh tonne of sugar, again an all-time high figure.
It may be mentioned that this year’s cane dues are the highest ever, having surpassed the hitherto highest dues of Rs 12,419.63 crore in 2017-18 on the same day. Last season’s cane dues as on June 18 stood at Rs 10,213.88 crore.
While the state’s total average payment is around 58%, there are some private sugar mills that have paid abysmally low. Among the major defaulters are the Yadu group’s two mills that have made a payment of 10.53% of their total cane dues, while Simbhaoli group’s three sugar mills have paid a mere 12.10%. The Bajaj group, too, which has 14 sugar mills in the state, has paid a paltry 24.94% of its total dues.
On the other hand, there are many groups that have paid well such as Dwarikesh, DSC, Dalmia, Birla, Dhampur, Triveni, IPL and Balrampur Chini. While Dwarikesh group, which has three sugar mills has paid 81.27% dues, DSCL’s 4 mills have paid 79.58%. Dalmia’s three mills have paid 76.91%, while Birla group’s 4 mills have paid 72.16%, followed by the 5 Dhampur mills that have paid 71.45% and Triveni’s 7 mills with a payment of 70.34%. Indian Potash’s 6 mills have paid 61.36%, while Balrampur group’s 10 sugar mills have paid 80.54%.
Talking to FE, VM Singh, national convenor of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, punched holes in the Uttar Pradesh government’s claim of having paid Rs 1 lakh crore to over 47 lakh cane farmers in three years and said that this is mere wordplay to mislead farmers. “The claim of the government that it has paid Rs 1 lakh crore in three years is a total sham. Since when have we started calculating payments made in years instead of seasons? Just like we have a financial year, spanning from April to March, sugarcane farmers, too, have a crushing season, which spans from October to September. And furthermore, what is the government’s role in the payments? The farmers sell their cane to sugar mills, which then make the payments. What is the government’s claim to fame here?” he questioned.
“What is more interesting is the fact that while the government is claiming to have “made a record payment” to farmers, the 24 cooperative mills of the government still owe over Rs 1,280 crore. It should first pay its own dues and lead by example. Instead, here we have a government which is busy gathering accolades from a select few farmers with whom the chief minister deems to have a video interaction, while cane farmers in the state are in dire state and are committing suicides,” he stated.
Sudhir Panwar, a farm activist and President of Kisan Jagriti Manch, too, felt that the government is indulging in propaganda. “The government has failed in its role as laid down in the Sugarcane Control Act. As per the Act, the state government has been mandated to reserve cane areas for the sugar mills, fix the state advised price for cane and if mills do not make cane payments within the prescribed 14 days’ time, the government must issue recovery certificates against the errant sugar mills. That is the job of the state government, which, it is clearly failing in,” he said, adding that if the state of sugarcane farming in UP is so rosy, as is being showcased by the government, why is it that farmers still have Rs 1,500 crore unpaid dues. “If things are so good, there should have been no pending arrears today,” he added.