Sugarcane farmers wait in vain for dues

K.V. Subramanya

Siruguppa Sugars yet to pay for cane crushed during the 1999-2000 season

CHICKBALLAPUR: Hundreds of farmers from Bangalore Rural, Chickballapur and Tumkur districts have been trapped in debt ever since they supplied sugarcane to the Gauribidanur-based Siruguppa Sugars in Chickballapur district during the 1999-2000 crushing season.

Eight years since, the management of the sugar factory, which has shut down, has not paid the farmers money for the sugarcane supplied in November 1999 and April 2000. The factory owes the farmers Rs. 4.23 crore apart from interest of Rs. 8 crore on the amount.

Around 4,300 farmers from Doddaballapur and Nelamangala taluks in Bangalore Rural district, Gauribidanur, Shidlaghatta, Gudibande and Bagepalli taluks in Chickballapur district and Madhugiri, Koratagere and Pavagada taluks in Tumkur district are still running from pillar to post to recover the dues from the factory.

Official apathy, legal wrangles and political interference have compounded the woes of the farmers.

Dreams dashed

“Hoping to earn a big amount at one go, I took loans from banks and moneylenders and cultivated sugarcane and supplied it to Siruguppa Sugars. When the factory did not pay for the sugarcane, I had to sell two acres of land to repay the loans,” said Ashwathappa, a marginal farmer from Bagepalli taluk.

There are many marginal farmers such as Ashwathappa who have sold their land or houses to repay loans. Maheswaraiah of Aralumallige village in Doddaballapur taluk said, “My daughter’s marriage, which was to have taken place in May 2000, had to be postponed for three years because the factory defaulted on the payment of Rs. 80,000 it owes me.”

Taking into consideration the legalities of the case, the sugar factory’s petition to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) and various orders issued by the Karnataka High Court and the Commissioner for Cane Development and Sugar, the then Chickballapur Deputy Commissioner, Subodh Yadhav, passed an order on July 31, 2008 directing the Gauribidanur tahsildar to recover Rs. 4.23 crore with interest of Rs. 15 per cent a year from the sugar factory as land revenue dues.

Political pressure

However, because of some political pressure, the tahsildar did nothing for almost 15 days after the order was passed, said N. Venkata Reddy, State vice-president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS).

Angered by the delay by the authorities in recovering the dues, hundreds of farmers from the three districts launched an indefinite agitation in front of the tahsildar’s office in Gauribidanur in September.

When the situation threatened to go out of control, Mr. Yadhav and Superintendent of Police Ravindra Prasad assured the farmers on September 15 that the matter would be solved by October 15.

In the meantime, Mr. Yadhav was transferred and his successor, Anwar Pasha, requested the leaders of the farmer to give him one more month to find a solution. Mr. Pasha promised the leaders that he would get Rs. 12 crore from the State Government and pay the money to the farmers by November 20 and subsequently make arrangements for recovering the dues from the sugar factory.

Dr. Reddy said that if there was any further delay by the administration, the KRRS would launch an agitation across the State.

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