Polls make bitter turn sweet: Mills forced to crush cane till polling

Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh) (IANS) The sugarcane crushing season is long over and the remaining crop has gone dry.

But elections obviously make the bitter sound sweet, so the four sugar mills in Hata, Ramkola, Kaptanganj, and Khadda in Kushinagar and Siswa Bazar in Maharajganj are being made to crush the cane.

Polling in both these constituencies will be held in the final phase of Lok Sabha elections on Sunday. 

An official of the Hata mill admits that the cane crushing season is from October to March. "But we are yet to shut this time," he adds. 

However, he does not explain the reason for crushing cane when the moisture is already lost, affecting its sugar recovery. The Hata factory's average sugar-to-cane recovery has been 12 per cent for the current season.

Congress candidate from Khushinagar R.P.N. Singh says, "This is a ploy by the BJP government to fool the cane growers. They have asked the mills to continue crushing till the elections are over but the farmers are not getting indents for supplying cane. The mill owners express their inability and say they are helpless." 

The cane growers are also not happy with this extended crushing season. Badri Prasad, a cane grower, explains, "If we supply cane at this time, it will have the low weight due to lack of irrigation. There is no water in the canals and irrigating by diesel pump sets is an expensive proposition. It is better if we sell cane in the local market for juice."

Farmers who have supplied cane to the sugar mills are now wary that the mills will close down in two days, as soon as polling is over, and their payments would be delayed. They would have no option but to burn the thousands of tonnes of their sugarcane crop or sell them at a very low price to the crushers.

Kushinagar was once known as the sugar capital of the country. Before Independence, the region had 23 sugar mills, but today there are only eight -- five in Kushinagar and one each in Deoria, Maharajganj, and Gorakhpur. The sugar belt has shifted to western Uttar Pradesh where farmers are more organised and get better payment facilities.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a rally in Padrauna, had promised re-opening of the Padrauna sugar mill within 100 days. Five years have gone by, but not a single representative of the government has even visited the area, the farmers said.

Meanwhile, the President of Bhartiya Kisan Union of Kushinagar, Ram Chandra Singh, who is a sugarcane farmer, has given a memorandum to Modi, in which he has accused the BJP government of betraying sugarcane farmers. 

He has also appealed to the government to re-open the Laxmiganj sugar mill immediately else the BJP would face consequences in the upcoming Assembly elections scheduled to be held in 2022.

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