Peeved over payment dues, disgruntled sugarcane farmers begin a second phase of their agitationThe sugar mills were supposed to clear all their dues by January 21, but to date, they still owe more than Rs800 million to the farmers.
Disgruntled sugarcane producers have begun their second phase of agitation after the government failed to address their grievances related to pending payments.
As matters stand, several farmers are in the throes of a deep financial crisis since they don’t have the means to repay loans and run their households.
An ad-hoc committee—Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee—formed to pressurize the government has issued a charter of its protest programme.
Initially, as per the programme, the farmers will be working in the fields by wearing black armbands. This has been going on since last Friday, said Rajesh Yadav, a member of the struggle committee. “We also have started an awareness campaign that will continue till February 1.”
The campaign will raise awareness among farmers, who are being cheated by the sugar mills, to fight for their rights.
“As most of the farmers in the districts are illiterate and know little about farmers’ rights, it’s important to make them aware as the sugar mills will keep exploiting them,” said Yadav.
The sugar mills were supposed to clear all the dues by January 21, but till date, they still owe more than Rs800 million to the farmers.
“We will decide on February 1 about coming to Kathmandu and going ahead with a mass protest,” Yadav added.
Yadav alleged that Shreeram Sugar Mill, which had signed an agreement with the farmers to clear their pending payments had yet not started any work on it.
Similarly, Kapil Muni Mainali, President of the Nepal Sugarcane Producers Federation said that they have stopped their protest programme for now.
The meeting held among them on Saturday agreed to write a letter to related ministries and express their problems by holding a meeting with Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli.
He said that an interaction programme is being held on January 28 with officials from the Finance Ministry, Industry Ministry and mill owners. “We will draw the conclusion for further protest programmes after that,” said Mainali.
He said that the government has been negotiating to get the farmer payments released by the sugar mills.
After not being able to clear the farmer dues by the deadline, the government has decided to freeze the financial transaction of three sugar mills, Annapurna, Indira and Lumbini Sugar Mill. It also wrote a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs to be in contact of the three mill owners.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Lumbini Sugar Mill which has Rs100 million in dues has contacted the government. After the demise of its owner, the daughter in-law of the owner has come in contact and will hold meetings with the joint-secretary on Monday, said an official at the Ministry.
The government has already written a letter to freeze the banking transaction of Annapurna, Indira and Lumbini to the Finance Ministry and the Financial and Comptroller General Office, said the official. The freezing of the accounts is in the process.
Annapurna has made payment of Rs30.9 million from its outstanding dues of Rs420 million, while Indira Sugar has paid up just Rs7.4 million. It isn’t immediately clear how much Indira Sugar owes the farmers.