MP assembly polls: Closed sugar mills spell trouble for Shivraj Chouhan

In Gwalior, jobs are scarce and the closure of sugar mills has caused deep social unrest among farmers

ajay

Ajay Singh | November 21, 2018 | Gwalior


#Gwalior sugar mill   #Jyotiraditya Scindia   #Shivraj Singh Chouhan   #assembly elections   #Madhya Pradesh  
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM, Madhya Pradesh
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM, Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in the reckoning for a record fourth term in office. In the middle of his hectic campaigning, it will do him good to snatch a few hours of rest to watch Saudagar, a 1973 Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan.

Saudagar is a great story around the issue of making jaggery. A widow, played by Nutan, is skilled in making jaggery from the juice of palm date. The protagonist (Amitabh Bachchan) marries her only for that skill and dumps her after acquiring wealth. He then marries a young girl (Padma Khanna). Since the latter does not know how to make jaggery, our protagonist finds few takers for his jaggery and starts losing his fortune. The complexity of human emotions, rural economy and society is beautifully portrayed in the movie.

 
 
 
In the Gwalior region of Madhya Pradesh, the Saudagar story seems to be playing out again, albeit in a different manner all across this fertile and rich sugarcane-growing belt. Thousands of farmers have set up their temporary shops on the highway connecting to Jhansi and Indore with a good stock of jaggery. This is an unusual sight as farmers are rarely seen to be acting like traders. A casual conversation with any of them will reveal the truth of rural distress in the region.
 
There were three sugar mills in Dabra, Bhimpura and Sakhni to process sugarcane production of the region. Farmers were quite accustomed to carrying their produce to these mills and getting compensated as per the state advisory price (SAP) fixed by the Madhya Pradesh government in consultation with the centre. But all these mills are closed. The biggest, Dabra Sugar Mill, is accused by farmers of not clearing their dues running into several crores. And all these mill-owners are believed to be in cahoots with BJP legislators and ministers.
 
With all these mills having shut shops, farmers of this extremely fertile agriculture area have been facing an acute financial crisis. For the past three years they have been sowing sugarcane in a quite ritual manner only to face a crisis when they reap the crop. Luckily for them, skilled Muslim traders from western Uttar Pradesh, particularly Muzaffarnagar region, came to their rescue. They set up hundreds of crushers in the region to make jaggery out of sugarcane.
 
These traders from Muzaffarnagar have found it easy to purchase land and raw material to establish a prosperous business. "They are a very skilled and sturdy lot," said a farmer acknowledging the entrepreneurship of Muslim traders and their workers. Then, why do the farmers themselves not set up crushers? A local farmer explained quite candidly, "You see, farmers in this region are lazy and not as hardworking as these Muslim traders are." There seems to be a unique equilibrium between these Muslim traders and local farmers who are largely Hindus. And they seem to be weathering this manmade crisis of the sugar industry together.
 
Ironically, the Gwalior region which is flanked on either side by Chambal ravines and Bundelkhand, was one of the most ‘saffronised’ parts of the state. Although the Gwalior royal family (now represented by Jyotiraditya Scindia) owes its allegiance to the Congress and retains its influence, Gwalior became an arena of an intense ideological contest between the BJP and the Congress during the Ayodhya movement. At the height of the agitation, thousands of karsevaks were pushed to Uttar Pradesh either from Chambal area or from Bundelkhand. But that is a bitter history buried in the past.
 
As of now, the new issues have taken the spotlight. Jobs are scarce and the closure of sugar mills has caused deep social unrest among farmers whose very sustenance is at stake. People are not swayed by three-term chief minister's tom-tomming of his achievements of having constructed roads and provided electricity and water to people. "The least we could expect from a government is to provide us basic amenities. Chouhan has done nothing great," said many farmers with whom I interacted in Datia and the adjoining villages.
 
As in Saudagar, in which the protagonist promises a happy married life to the widow and uses her skills to acquire a fortune, the BJP won over the electorate by promising radical change in governance that would usher in a vibrant rural economy. The voters of this region seem to be in a similar use-and-dump mode vis-à-vis Chouhan. Fifteen years is a long time and the moss that the government has gathered around it in terms of promoting cronyism and corruption seems to weigh on their minds more than the development of which Chouhan speaks. The brazenness and abrasive conduct of the party cadre has not only alienated a large chunk of the electorate from the BJP leadership, but also made it weary of a political status quo.
 
At first glance, the political narrative seems to be building around a "change". It is finding resonance among voters. The inability of the state administration and cockiness of local BJP leaders in protecting the sand mafia and illegal quarry contractors is much discussed. Unless there is a last-minute change in voter attitudes, which happens rarely, this poll appears to be going the way of The Times They Are a-Changin'.
 
[This comment has appeared on FirstPost.com]
 

Comments

 

Other News

"TV not in business of news; it is in the business of polarisation”

Television news these days has a loose relationship with truth, says senior journalist, columnist and author Vir Sanghvi, adding that it is not telling the truth and polarising opinions. In a live webcast with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the Visionary Talk series held by

How the colonial rulers combated “this insidious and growing danger” of dust and smoke

Dust and Smoke: Air Pollution and Colonial Urbanism: India, c. 1860-1940 By Awadhendra Sharan Orient BlackSwan, xxiv+320 pages, Rs 795 Air pollu

Unlocking the value of renewable energy assets through InVITs in India

India has been witnessing a sluggish demand growth for power amidst COVID-19. It has affected both thermal as well as renewable energy (RE) sector. While thermal sector (coal) plant load factor (PLF) is coming down continuously amidst no new generation building up, renewable energy held its ground through

“Proposed power amendments anti- people, favor licensees”

Maharashtra Veej Grahak Sanghatana, a state-level coordination committee of industrial associations and power consumers, has approached the state government for urgent intervention on key concerns after Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission on December 9 published the draft of the MERC (Electricity

Uddhav inaugurates largest tunnel boring machine for Mumbai Coastal Road

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has launched the largest tunnel boring machine (TBM) for the Mumbai Coastal Road project at Priyadarshini Park, in Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai. Called Mavala, the TBM having the largest diameter and the first of its size to be used in the cou

Beyond open defecation: Tackling solid waste management issues

Antony Waste Handling Cell (AWHC) has been offering its services in handling municipal solid waste (MSW) across India for the past 19 years. When AWHC made its initial public offer (IPO) during December 21-23, it was subscribed 15 times. Why the sudden interest in this IPO? Did the market rightly and exped

Visionary Talk with Vir Sanghvi On the future of News Journalism





Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter