Payments delayed, farmers attack sugar mills in Maharashtra

KOLHAPUR: Unrest among sugarcane growers over delayed and part payment by sugar factories took a violent turn on Saturday with a group of farmers torching the offices of two sugar mills and forcibly closing down four offices.

The two mills whose offices were set on fire by unidentified farmers are in Satara and Sangli districts, while the four offices that were ransacked and forcibly shut down are in Kolhapur district. Police have intensified security at sugar mills across the three districts.

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Police said they have registered offences against unidentified people in all the six cases and are trying to identify the attackers.

The incidents took place soon after farmers realised that most of the private and cooperative sugar factories had only deposited 80% of the money they owed them in their bank accounts. They are upset as it’s mandatory for factories to make full payment within 14 days after cane is taken for crushing.

The factories deposited the money at the rate of Rs 2,300 per tonne while the fair and remunerative price (FRP) is Rs 2,800 per tonne. Most of the factories in Maharashtra have not made payment to farmers for more than three months now, creating unrest in the sugar belt.

Thirty-seven factories in Sangli and Kolhapur districts have been served notices by the office of the sugar commissioner for violation of the Sugarcane Control Act.

Farmers to target Amit Shah visit: Shetti Delay in payment to sugarcane farmers has become a big issue in western Maharashtra, the sugar bowl of the state. “A group of unidentified men gathered outside the Kranti Sugar Factory in Sangli district and Krishna Sugar Factory near Karad in Satara district around Friday midnight and set afire the gate cane offices,” said the police.

According to the police, the offices were heavily damaged by the attackers. In similar incidents, the offices of four sugar factories — Jawahar, Datta, Gurudatta and Kurundwad — in Kolhapur district were damaged and forcibly closed down by angry farmers.

The factories expressed their inability to make the payment at one go to the farmers, citing huge difference in manufacturing cost and actual price of sugar in the retail market.

The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) has warned that it would not accept part payment. It has also demanded an additional Rs 200 FRP per tonne. SSS leader Raju Shetti said his organisation will intensify agitation if the cane farmers’ demands are not met within four days. Speaking after a marathon meeting to discuss the plight of farmers on Saturday night, he said farmers will gather in Kolhapur and seek an explanation from BJP leader Amit Shah on their plight when he arrives in the city on January 24. “If the sugar cane farmers’ payment is not cleared within four days, we will intensify the agitation,” he said.” Shetti criticized the government and sugar factories saying that both have been cheating farmers for more than two months. “Factories had come together to make part payment to the farmers and it was a do-or-die battle for farmers.”

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