NEW DELHI: Even as liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who owes over Rs 9,000 crore to banks, continues to dominate headlines after his silent exit from the country, the plight of Uttar Pradesh’s sugarcane farmers fighting a losing battle against the big mill owners who owe Rs 3,000 crore to them seems to have largely gone unnoticed.
What has made the farmers helpless is the fact that nearly 25 mill owners have downed shutters while 15 others have given notices to the administration for the closure of business. As per rules, the amount due to the farmers have to be disclosed to the administration before shutting up shop, but according to the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (RKMS), it has not been followed. “The government has turned a blind eye to the plight of the farmers,” alleged the convener of Sangathan, V M Singh.
“The mill owners have already started laying off their staff but have not disclosed to the government when they will start releasing the dues to the farmers,” he added. “No such steps seems to be forthcoming to mitigate the sufferings of the sugar cane growers,” an office-bearer of the RKMS lamented.
Kasi Vishwanathan of the Indian Sugar Mills Association, however, said the dues to the farmers would be paid soon. Officials in the State government said communications had been sent to all District Collectors to recover the dues and submit detailed reports to the administration so as to mitigate the sufferings of the farmers. Prominent sugar mills owned by the Modi group owe Rs 134 crore and the Mawana group Rs 163 crore. Rana group, on the other hand, owes Rs 24 crore and the Bajaj group Rs 13 crore.
The development comes at a time when the attention of the country is focused on the Mallay episode. Mallya who is understood to be in Britain after he left India on March 2. He owes over Rs 9,000 to a consortium of banks led by State Bank of India. The Enforcement Directorate has summoned Mallya in connection with a money- laundering case on March 18.