10 November 2023, Maharashtra: Two tractors carrying sugarcane were set ablaze on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border on Wednesday night, as tensions escalated over pricing issues related to sugar mills in south Maharashtra, police said.
Approximately 20 farmers from both states ignited two tractors hauling 30 to 35 tonnes of sugarcane destined for a sugar mill in Maharashtra from Karnataka. The incident took place on the outskirts of Karadaga village in Nippani taluk, Karnataka, at around 8 pm, according to Sadalaga Police Sub-Inspector SM Biradar.
The farmers, operating under the banner of “Swabhimani Shethkari Sanghatana,” a farmers’ organisation based in southern Maharashtra and led by former Kolhapur MP Raju Shetty, had recently convened a meeting of sugarcane growers from south Maharashtra and north Karnataka in Kolhapur.
During the meeting, a unanimous decision was made not to supply sugarcane to sugar mills in south Maharashtra until they announced a minimum rate of ₹3,500 per tonne of sugarcane.
Former MP Raju Shetty said that southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka collectively contribute more than 60% of the total sugarcane production in their respective states. When the mills refused to meet the pricing demands put forth by the farmers’ associations, they decided to boycott the mills in the southern region.
In defiance of the ban, three farmers, namely Amit Ajit Boskar from Hatkanagala in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra, and Arun Tanaji Chauhan and Praveen Arun Chauhan, both from Hengavali in Nippani taluk, Karnataka, were attempting to transport sugarcane in four trolleys using two tractors to Jawahar Saakar Karkhana (Jawahar Sugar Mill) in Huppari, the last village in Maharashtra in Kagal taluk, located on the border with Karnataka.
They were intercepted by local farmers at Karadaga village along the Karadaga-Rendal road, where the vehicle tires were deflated before being set ablaze, as eyewitnesses told HT.
“Upon discovering that Karnataka farmers were secretly transporting sugarcane to the mills, they monitored their movements and prevented them by resorting to arson,” he told reporters.
Shetty clarified that the protesting farmers symbolically set fire only to the tractor engines and not to the sugarcane-loaded trolleys.
A prominent figure known for his aggressive stance; former MP Shetty explained that the farmers resorted to torching the sugarcane transport vehicles as a warning to deter others from following suit. He further criticised sugar mills in both Maharashtra and Karnataka for offering subpar rates and failing to pay their bills promptly. “The political influence in the matter is evident, as most sugar mills are owned by politicians,” Shetti said.
Sadalaga Sub-Inspector Biradar mentioned that additional police personnel have been deployed at the state border to prevent a recurrence of such incidents. “The owners of the torched tractors have lodged a complaint with the Sadalaga police. case under IPC Section 435, which deals with incidents of vehicle burning,” he said.
Siddagouda Modagi, the president of the Belagavi Sugarcane Growers’ Association, supported the burning of tractor of the protesting farmers and urged them not to deviate from the decisions made by the farmers’ organization. Modagi stressed, “We must stand firm when dealing with sugar mills that are taking advantage of sugarcane suppliers by failing to pay the agreed-upon amount.”
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