Farmers have to face innumerable uncertainties in every stage — from sowing to harvesting to realising the sale proceeds. They brave several natural and manmade hurdles, including vagaries of nature and middlemen. The story of sugarcane growers is not different. These farmers primarily belong to politically sensitive states such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana and Punjab, where politicians treat them as vote banks. On political considerations, ruling governments in the state promise farmers a state advised price (SAP) for their crops, which is often higher than the fair and remunerative price (FRP) fixed by the Centre. Such promises, which are incongruous to the economic principles, are often broken, provoking farmers to agitate.
This is particularly true in the case of cash-strapped Punjab. The state government is hard placed to tame the seven private sugarcane mills responsible for creating a hostage-like situation in the region. Millers insist on concessions, subsidies and exemptions before they start their mills in the current crushing season. This unnerves local farmers because this means no buyers for their ready crop and they are unlikely to get their past dues, which have crossed Rs 400 crore. Desperate farmers did what they do the best, blocked highways. Private mills — mostly owned by politicians or people with considerable political influence — hesitate in offering SAP, citing a glut situation. They are sure to get concessions from the state. The government is likely to take a favourable decision for them, apparently under the cover of providing relief to the agitating farmers at the cost of public exchequer.
Farmers, particularly in India, are by and large poor. They are often debt-ridden. It is criminal on part of the mill-owners to withhold their past dues — about Rs 18,000 crore for the entire country. The Centre and state government must intervene and pay the entire amount to the farmers without any further delay. Secondly, it is the duty of the state government to pay SAP to the sugarcane farmers and recover the same from the millers.