House panel wants sugar mills to clear all arrears within a weekShree Ram Sugar Mill has said that it will clear the payments by Friday.
The parliamentary Industry, Commerce, Labour and Consumer Interest Protection Committee on Thursday directed the government to make sugar mills liable to clear all arrears of farmers within a week.
The House committee has directed the government to take action against mills showing laxity in settling the farmers’ dues.
“As per the orders, if the sugar mills fail to clear farmers’ arrears, they will be arrested on a fraud charge,” Bimal Prasad Shrivastav, chairperson of the committee told the Post. “The Ministry of Industry has to initiate a process to clear farmers’ dues at any cost,” he said.
He said that the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Home Affairs were informed of Thursday’s decision.
“We have formally written to the Industry Ministry recommending a stern action against mills showing laxity in settling farmers’ dues,” said Shrivastav.
The decision to this effect was made in coordination with Sashi Kant Agrawal, president of Nepal Sugar Producers Association.
The committee also directed the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security to clear the dues of labourers working in sugar mills pending from the last 8 months within 15 days. The committee has asked the labour ministry to submit the report within 15 days after conducting a field report whether the mill's workers have been paid within the stipulated time.
They have asked the government that if they cannot make mills liable then the government itself should pay their dues with interest through the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund or any other fund.
Responding to the invitation of the Industry Ministry to hold talks, the farmers’ group submitted a letter to the ministry stating that the last time they decided to hold talks, they “did not receive anything except consolation”.
Farmers said they are firm and would protest until they get paid.
In January, the government, mills and the farmers agreed on a five-point deal to clear the farmers’ dues.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Annapurna Sugar Mill, Sarlahi owes Rs170 million in outstanding dues to farmers, followed by Lumbini Sugar Mill Rs80.41 million and Indira Sugar Mill Nawalparasi Rs40.70 million. Similarly, Shree Ram Sugar Mill has farmers arrears amounting to Rs350 million.
The sugar mills have said they owe farmers around Rs550 million in dues to farmers.
But sugarcane farmers say mills owe them Rs900 million in outstanding dues.
On October 11, the sugarcane producers knocked the door of the parliamentary committee requesting it to make efforts to get the mills to pay their dues.
Although the ministry had asked the sugar mills to provide details of the dues owed to the farmers by Tuesday, they have not received any, said Urmila KC, spokesperson at the Industry Ministry.
According to KC, Shree Ram Sugar has said that it will clear the payment by Friday. Shree Ram Sugar Mill in Rautahat was forced to shut down due to its piling losses five months ago.
Around 600 employees have lost their jobs and hundreds more have been affected indirectly after the mill closed down.