Even as most of the 99 private sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh ignited their boilers – the first stage of crushing operations – following Sunday’s agreement between the government and the millers, cane growers and their representatives are feeling let down. By agreeing to the millers’ demand of paying Rs. 280 a quintal price in two instalments of Rs. 260 and Rs. 20, the government has compromised on the basic issue of better cane procurement price, they feel.

On Monday, the millers started preparing for cane crushing, which has been delayed by about a month owing to a the deadlock. Industry sources said indents were issued for procurement from the growers.

“It takes about a week for the mills to stabilise from the time boilers are ignited and cane crushing will start once the steam reaches its optimum level. By December 10, crushing operations will be in full swing”, UP Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) secretary, Deepak Guptaara told The Hindu.

There have been protests against the late start of mills and the non-payment of last year’s price arrears, mainly in Muzaffarnagar district, known as the sugar bowl of the State.

Mr. Guptaara said the confusion was on account of farmers being unaware of the actual position. On Sunday, farmers staged demonstrations in other districts, including Meerut, Baghpat, Amroha, Hardoi, Moradabad, Barabanki and Kheri.

The protest in Muzaffarnagar is being led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), which has been staging a dharna for the past one week. It has rejected the agreement between the government and the millers. BKU president Naresh Tikait has dubbed the agreement as a sell-out to the mill owners. Alleging that the interests of the growers has been ignored, the BKU has announced it would stage a “chakka jam” (road block) in the district on December 5.

There is a strong feeling among the growers that the mills should have started crushing operations on time and the agreement with the government could have come later. Many farmers were faced with several financial problems on account of the delay. “The government has succumbed to the pressure of the mill owners and from the agreement, it is clear that the interests of the growers has been overlooked,” said a cane grower from Thana Bhavan in Shamli district in western Uttar Pradesh.