A volatile situation appears to be developing in the politically sensitive, sugarcane surplus western Uttar Pradesh with farmers determined to thwart the moves of the State and Union governments, as well as the powerful sugar lobby. While the State-advised price announced by the Uttar Pradesh government has already been rejected with protests manifesting in burning of sugarcane in Bijnor, Bulandshahr, Baghpat and Muzaffar Nagar districts, the farmers seem unlikely to accept the fair and remunerative price (FRP) to be announced by the Centre.

Both moves have been dubbed by the farmers and their representatives a “sellout” to sugar mill owners. A Kisan Mahapanchayat held in Bareilly announced its decision to oppose the announcement on sugarcane price. The Mahapanchayat was attended by Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Union president V.M. Singh, Baba Harikrishna Malik and thousands of farmers.

“We want to rescue the farmers from the clutches of the State and Central governments. We have declared our own price and if the mill owners refuse to pay the price, the farmers will prefer to burn sugarcane on the fields,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu, adding they will not settle for a price of less than Rs.280 a quintal.

Besides reports of sugarcane being burnt by agitated farmers on Wednesday, the Meerut police reportedly resorted to lathi charge farmers who were protesting against the State Assured Price (SAP).

“Stabbed in the back”

“The State government has stabbed the growers in the back and the Central ordinance on the fixation of a fair and remunerative price will throttle the farmers,” said the president of Western Uttar Pradesh Cane Growers Society, Preetam Chaudhary.

Mr. Chaudhary said farmers would gherao MPs from the cane producing areas of the State when the Parliament session began on November 19. “Consensus has to emerge for applying pressure on the Central government to withdraw the ordinance and prevent it from being tabled in Parliament,” he added.

It is being felt that the Centre’s move to fix the procurement price of cane, which would render the SAP irrelevant, will ruin not only farmers but the crop in both tropical and sub-tropical areas of the country as well.

The fresh crisis coincides with the decline in the cane area from 21.40 lakh hectares in 2008-2009 to 17.88 lakh hectares in 2009-2010. Consequently, the production will also in for a quantum fall from 1107.82 lakh tonne in 2008-2009 to an estimated 980.00 lakh tonne in 2009-2010.