As many as 20 sugar mills, all in the private sector, still owe over Rs 1,600 crore in dues from the previous crushing season to farmers across 50 Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh.
The move is aimed at ensuring that non-payment of dues does not adversely affect the BJP in the Assembly elections.
Most of these mills are based in west UP, the sugar bowl of the state, spanning Lakhimpur Kheri, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Pilibhit, Saharanpur, Baghpat, Meerut, Hapur and Bulandshahr, among other districts.
Sugar, in this region, remains the focal point of politics.
According to an official of the cane department, there are 119 sugar mills in the state to which around 45 lakh sugarcane growers supply their produce.
On an average, at least 40,000 farmers are associated with each mill.
The defaulter mills are owned by four groups. They not only owe a total of Rs 1,600 crore from last year’s crushing season to cane growers in their respective areas but have not paid a penny for the current season either, he added.
As expected, opposition parties are ready to cash in on the mood among these cane growers, many of whom participated in the agitation against farm laws.
RLD’s senior leader Praveen Deshwal said, “These farmers will give a fitting reply in the upcoming polls.”
However, Uttar Pradesh minister and senior BJP leader Bhupendra Singh said, “It is only the BJP government which ensured cane payments in time and launched several schemes to double farmers’ income.”