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Battleground Uttar Pradesh: 'Left in the lurch', Lakhimpur Kheri farmers to use NOTA option

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Lakhimpur Kheri (UP), Feb 02: Farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, who are yet to come to terms with the infamous October incident, are considering using the 'NOTA' option in the upcoming Assembly polls.

They alleged that while the two main political parties in the state - the BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) - have "cheated" them, the other parties are "ineffective".

Battleground Uttar Pradesh: Left in the lurch, Lakhimpur Kheri farmers to use NOTA option

Farmers, that constitute the bulk of the population in Lakhimpur Kheri district located in the Terai belt, said while they have decided not to vote for the BJP owing to the contentious farm laws, they do not wish to support the SP either as the previous Akhilesh Yadav-led government had waived off Rs 2,000 crore interest amount payable by sugarcane mill owners to the cultivators.

Several farmers said they will choose 'NOTA' (none of the above) on February 23, if necessary, as all parties pay them lip service during elections but do not take any concrete steps to address their grievances.

Jagpal Dhillon, a farmer in Maraucha village located in Palia tehsil here told PTI that all political parties - the BJP, SP, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress - give them false assurances and "use them as commodities" during the elections.

"We have no hope from any political party," he said, adding, "the BJP will have to bear the brunt of the October 3 Tikoniya incident." On October 3, eight people, including four farmers, were killed in violence during the farmers' protest at Tikoniya village in Lakhimpur Kheri. Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni's son Ashish Mishra is named as the prime accused and is in jail.

Kewal Singh, who along with his two brothers owns 45 acres of land in Palia, says the farmers will not forget how the previous Akhilesh Yadav government waived off the interest amount of Rs 2,000 crore which the sugarcane farmers were entitled to receive from mill owners.

"The condition of the farmers turned worse under the BJP regime, which ironically had promised to double our income," he said.

According to the Cane Control Order 1966, in case of non-payment of the outstanding cane price within 14 days, sugar mill owners will have to pay an interest of 15 per cent to the farmers. However, the SP government waived off this interest amount, which swelled up to about Rs 2,000 crore citing that the industry was going through a lean phase.

On asked whom he would support in the upcoming elections, Singh said, "We have no hopes from the BJP or the SP. The rest of the parties have no meaning. A large number of farmers are in favour of refraining from voting. But if necessary, we will press the NOTA button." VM Singh, head of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, alleged that the SP and the BJP "cheated" the farmers.

"The SP-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance and the BJP are fooling the farmers. Why should we support either of them," he sought to know.

About 75 per cent of the farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri district cultivate sugarcane. Nine sugar mills, run by co-operative organisations and the private sector, crush about 15 lakh quintals of sugarcane here.

Farmer leader Anjani Dixit, who supplies sugarcane to a mill at Gola here, said the sugar mills in the district have paid the farmers only until February 6 last year.

"So far, the sugar mills have not paid us. Earlier, the SP government did not pay attention to the farmers. Today, Akhilesh Yadav (during Anna Sankalp campaign) says that he is with the farmers.

"Then Narendra Modi made promises. He said his party would ensure that we got our dues paid. Five years on, our concerns remain unaddressed," he said.

Dixit said due to non-payment of outstanding sugarcane dues, the farmers are stuck in the quagmire of debt.

"Our children are unable to study and get married. Judiciary is the only recourse left. I don't know who to vote for," he said.

Sukhdev Singh, former president of Cooperative Sugarcane Development Society Limited, Palia Kalan, said sugarcane is cultivated in 44 districts of Uttar Pradesh.

There are 44 sugar mills in the state of which 22 are privately held. These sugar mills owe the farmers as much as Rs 12,000 crore in two years, he said.

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