I am ready to commit suicide, says 75-year-old Baljor Singh Arya even as district administration drag him away from what they see is a mediaperson talking to a protesting farmer. Arya, a sugarcane farmer from Malakhpur village of Baghpat district in western Uttar Pradesh, says successive governments have done well by bringing in new technology to up yields. But, he asks, why have they allowed the payment system of sugar mills to remain old-fashioned? In his words, how sugarcane farmers are being double-crushed by loans and dues from mills.
Sugarcane is the lifeline of farmers in this region. And when you hold back our payments—understand it this way—our lives remain on a ventilator; we live in suspension, neither dead nor living. Since generations we have seen and learnt only one means of livelihood—sugarcane farming. There is no other option. Payment ho toh bachchon ki fees bharegi, betiyon ki shaadi hogi, makaan banega... (If we get paid from the mills for the sugarcane, out children will go to schools, out daughters will be married, our houses will be built… ). Otherwise either you wait for the governments to act or protest on the road and brave police brutality. This is life for us in short. Governments come and go. Mayawati, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Adityanath… nothing changes for us. They are all one. Your payment is due, overdue, so you take a loan. The burden rises every year. Go to any village in sugarcane belt. There is not one village where farmers are not burdened with loans. Do you believe a farmer ends his life because of some suicidal tendency? He does it because he sees no hope. Things have only got worse with the advent of new farm technologies. The yield has increased manifold but the payment cycle has remained the same. They have time and money to bring in new technologies (from other countries) but they would not replicate the payment system of developed countries. Because on paper, it shows them in good light and the fat cats of sugar mills donate to their parties. When Yogi came to power, he promised that our loans will be waived in a fortnight and payments will not be held beyond one year. Our holy books tell us a `Yogi’ always speaks the truth. He (Yogi) should at least live up to his title. Even Modiji hasn’t kept his word. He assured us that GST will make tax rates and the prices of electricity, fertilizers, urea, etc uniform across the country. However, you just cross over to Haryana (a few kms away) and you will be surprised to see the difference (in the prices of these basic things needed by the farmers) enjoyed by the farmers there. Recently, one of our friend, Udayvir Singh (65), who was sitting with us here on a dharna, died. Because he died just a day before the Prime Minister’s visit here, the administration acted with great speed. The officials quickly handed over a cheque of ₹12 lakh to his family. Can you imagine? In one day, he got the compensation, although we had demanded ₹50 lakh as compensation. On such occasions, you wonder if only a death in the family make government sit up and act! Will we get money only after we die protesting or commit suicide? I am ready to commit suicide at this age, as it will not only benefit my family but also my fellow farmers. These thoughts are always on my mind these days…
(It was at this point that district administration officials surrounded Arya and took him away by force, warning him against talking to the media)
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—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>