Hitting out at the NDA government for providing cover-up to sugar mills, environmentalist and social activist Vandana Shiva on Saturday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must act swiftly to get long pending arrears of sugarcane farmers being paid.

Accusing sugar mill owners for the deplorable life of cane farmers, Shiva charged millers of owing above Rs 5,000 crore to the farmers of Western Uttar Pradesh. The noted environmentalist, while talking to Millennium Post, told that an action plan would be submitted to Centre for the redressal of farmers' woes. Apart from this, according to Shiva, pro-farmer activists will launch an awareness yatra in the cane producing states.

Raising an alarm over farmers' suicides spreading to sugarcane belt, Shiva said: "In Western UP, this phenomenon is comparatively recent with several cases being reported from Baghpat, Bijnore and Shajahanpur. In 2013, UP recorded 750 suicides, which is 6.4 per cent of the total number of farmers' suicides of the country".

Explaining the causes of farmers' suicides, the activist said: "Suicides are happening due to exploitation by industry seeking super profits from selling costly, non renewable seeds and chemicals in the case of cotton and, in the case of sugarcane, better profits by not paying farmers for the sugarcane they have produced at high cost. This exploitation leads to a debt, and unpayable debt is the primary cause for driving farmers to suicides."

"Today farmers are being paid artificially depressed prices for their sugarcane as the production cost of sugarcane is Rs 36.5 a kg whereas the factory gate sugar price is Rs 31.5 a kg, which means that the production cost exceeds factory gate price by 16 per cent," alleged Shiva.

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Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” (for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability.

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