Violence erupts between farmers and the mill staff in Lakhimpur Kheri district

The issue of sugarcane pricing escalated on Friday as clashes erupted between the sugar cane farmers and the security staff at Gularia Sugar Mill in Lakhimpur Kheri district, after a farmer from the district committed suicide on Thursday.

Villagers from the district alleged that the farmer of Bastauli village committed suicide following non-payment of last year’s cane price arrears by the sugar mill. The villagers resorted to heavy brick-batting and tried to break into the mill, but were deterred by the security guards.

The Inspector General (Establishment), Vitul Kumar said the security guard fired in the air when the villagers tried to forcibly enter the mill. Mr. Kumar said no one was injured in the firing. The situation was brought under control following the arrival of the Kheri district police chief, the IG told reporters. He added that the autopsy of the farmer had been performed.

The 45-year-old cane farmer Satpal Singh’s body was found hanging from a tree, situated a short distance from his house, on Thursday.

The suicide note recovered from the spot mentioned his illness and failure to pay off debts as the reason for his death, the IG said. The suicide note was addressed to the station house officer of Bheera police station.

Mr. Kumar said the farmer had taken loans from three or four sources. Satpal is said to have taken loans amounting to around Rs. 2.5 lakh from the Land Development Bank, Allahabad Bank and the Cane Cooperative Society. He had also reportedly not been paid last year’s cane price arrears of about Rs. 50,000.

But the official said it was a misconception that the failure on the part of the sugar mill management to pay cane price dues was the reason behind the farmer’s suicide.

With the mill owners adamant that the crushing of the crop will not begin till the State Advised Price of sugarcane for the 2013-14 sugar season is scaled down from Rs. 280 to Rs. 225 per quintal, and the government firm on its stand, the growers are in a catch-22 situation.

The crushing operations have already been delayed by a month, though the State government fixed a fresh deadline of December 4 for the mills in Western U.P. to start their operations and December 7 for the mills is Eastern U.P. The government has also made it clear that there will be no more talks with millers and no more deadlines.