“Labourers working under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, who earn Rs. 100 a day, make more money than landowners like me,” said Chaudhary Krishipal Singh .
Singh (48) is a landlord from Chaugama district of Muzaffarnagar in western UP. He grows sugarcane.
“Expensive fertilizer, the whole process of planting and processing the crop, the labour and transportation costs — all this leaves us with almost nothing to feed ourselves with,” he said.
The heart of the capital looked like a disaster zone as more than 30,000 agitated sugarcane cultivators from small village clusters of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Bijnore marched from Ramlila Ground to Jantar Mantar.
They were protesting against the sugarcane pricing by the government. Most felt that the government's decision to hike prices by Rs. 25 was arbitrary.
“Seventy per cent of India's population is employed in the agricultural sector but that doesn’t seem to reflect in the government’s policies,” said Rajbir Singh (70) from Bijnore.
“With the costs involved, they don't understand how difficult it already is for large farmer families to depend on the fate of the yield of a single crop,” he said. “Now they want to pay less than what we deserve for the crop.”
Virender Singh (62) had come with 160 people from Goon village in Meerut.
“Conditions were so bad that we had to borrow money to water our fields. And this is what we get in return,” he said.
Rajpal Tyagi (59) from Muzaffarnagar said, “It’s very easy to sit in a big room and fix any price for a commodity. I challenge these people to work on our fields for a single day and sell us their produce at a price as low as they want us to accept.”