Punjab polls: 'Disappointed' sugarcane farmers refuse to vote, say no government serious about them
Kapurthala (Punjab) [India], February 13,2022 (ANI): With only a few days left for the Punjab Assembly election, the political parties are leaving no stone unturned in making promises to the Punjab people for a better future. And in the midst of all the promises, the farmers, who are sweating it out in their fields, said that they would not vote as the disappointment from all the governments so far has made them hopeless about the future.
The farmers said, "What is the use of voting when no government thinks for us?" Farmers in Punjab's Kapurthala district, popular for sugarcane cultivation, are in great despair as the government has increased the price of sugarcane per quintal while the payment is also not made on time.
Speaking to ANI, Santokh Singh, a sugarcane farmer in Lakhpur village, said, "I cultivate sugarcane in about 10 acres of land. The sugarcane business is not doing well now. The government is also not taking it seriously."
Santokh Singh further added, "It takes a whole year to grow sugarcane and when we go to the sugar mill with it, we have to see payment issues. The Phagwara Sugar Mill has not paid 32 crores for 2019-20 and 6 crores for 2020-21. Payment of 2 years is still stuck at the Phagwara sugar mill. The total outstanding is 38 crores. The government said that payment is in the process but the payment is not yet made with outstanding dues."
The farmers have raised questions on the Punjab government for the price of sugarcane. Santokh Singh said, "Punjab government has issued notification of Rs 360 per quintal after an increase of Rs 50 per quintal. But the private sugar mills said that they cannot pay that much money. Then after talks, it was decided that the sugar mills would pay the farmers at the rate of Rs 325 per quintal and the remaining Rs 35 per quintal would be paid by the Punjab government."
Another farmer Satwinder Singh rued, "On one hand the labour cost is increasing and on the other, the cost of seeds and fertilizers are also increasing. We grow sugarcane on a large scale by taking land on a contract basis, for which the rate has also increased. But for sugarcane, the rate has not increased accordingly."
According to Satwinder, the farmers are not getting the full price which was fixed as per government notification. "Now, it has become a daily wage labourer, in the name of profit", added Satwinder.
When asked about expectations from the government and other parties, Satwinder Singh said, "We have seen everyone, no one has done anything and now there is no hope from anyone."
Unemployment is a big problem in Punjab and as result, a large number of youths are moving towards farming. A young farmer Parminder Singh said, "The situation as of now is that youths cannot make agriculture a career. There is no help from the government for that also. I cultivate 10 acres of land, but if we calculate the profit in comparison to the cost, I only earn 300 rupees per day as a daily wage. Our own earnings are going to the sugar mills and the government. No idea when we will get it."
Parminder said that he has had Rs 3 lakh dues on Phagwara sugar mill since last year. "Even if I leave this year, then there is a delay in the payment for this season. The sugar mills are paying in 15-20 days by saying one week. On top of that, we are not getting Rs 35 per quintal from the government. So far this year, we have given sugarcane worth about Rs 8 lakhs, but haven't received payment yet. There is no profit in farming but one cannot stop farming also. It is better to work on your own farm instead of working as a labourer somewhere else."
Joga Singh has been cultivating sugarcane for about 35 years. While speaking to ANI, he said that since 2015, farming has become very difficult. "Earlier, sugar mills used to give us sugar at half the price, but now even sugarcane price is not being paid on time. In the name of profit, it is just that one is earning enough to buy food."
Joga Singh also expressed his disappointment in the political parties. He said, "There is no difference, all parties are the same. We have seen everyone. There is no use in voting."
Karanvir Singh of Sangatpur village, who was on his way to a sugar mill with about 200 quintals of sugarcane on his trolley, said that the rate fixed by the government is also going back and forth. "Sugar mills had earlier said that payment would be made every week, but now they are paying in 18-20 days. The sugar mills owe me about four lakhs for the last two years. A few days back, all of us farmers had protested against the sugar mill, yet the payment is not being made on time. On the contrary, they even threaten us to shut down the mill."
Karanvir Singh said, "If there was proper water facility, then we would not only cultivate sugarcane but also grow paddy. Here we get 8 hours of electricity, how much can we irrigate with it? That's why we only do sugarcane farming."
The livelihood of labourers of other states is also linked to sugarcane cultivation in Punjab. Mehboob Rahman, along with about a dozen other labourers, comes here every year during the sugarcane harvesting season. Mehboob Rehman, peeling sugarcane in a field in Lakhpur village, said, "We grow sugarcane by taking the field on contract every year. The problem right now is that we are not getting the money on time because only the Sardar people are not getting the payment." (ANI)