ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Bitter Harvest

Sugar cane farmers of Maharashtra's sugar cooperative sector fi nd themselves at a losing end.

When the first sugar cooperative was set up in Pravara­nagar in Maharashtra in 1949, the intention was to prevent the exploitation of cultivators of sugar cane. The success of that venture started off the sugar cooperative movement in the state. It is ironical therefore that farmer-members of these cooperatives are now being forced to go on violent agitations to demand remunerative prices for the cane they grow. The agitation in western Maharashtra, which for a while blocked the supply of cane to the factories, was for a higher first advance price of Rs 3,000 for cane purchased by the sugar ­factories this season. The agitation claimed two lives.

There are a number of interconnected issues that take the current agitation beyond the price factor, some that are connected with the powerful sugar lobby for long and newer trends that can pose a major threat to their power. The hegemony of the sugar factory lobby in successive state governments has meant the decline of the farmers’ movement. But now the rise of Raju Shetty of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), who led the recent agitation, has disconcerted the state’s ruling elite, many of whom control the sugar cooperative factories in the state.

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