Supreme Court orders sugar mills to pay farmers within a monthA dozen sugar mills owe sugarcane farmers around Rs1.5 billion from the last fiscal year.
The Supreme Court has issued an interim order to sugar mills to settle outstanding payments to sugarcane farmers within one month.
Justice Kumar Regmi issued the order Thursday ruling that payment to sugarcane farmers was directly related to the basic right provided by the Constitution of Nepal.
Pleading on behalf of the applicant, advocate Punya Prasad Khatiwada said that the recent agreement made between the government and sugarcane farmers that they would get their money within 21 days may not be implemented too, as a similar previous accord had gone unimplemented.
“If the interim order issued by the Supreme Court is not implemented, that will constitute contempt of court, and proceedings can be initiated accordingly,” Khatiwada told the Post.
The application to the Supreme Court was made a few days after the farmers launched a protest demanding settlement of long-standing arrears of payment for their sugarcane crops sold to sugar mills.
The applicants have also demanded that the expenses of the farmers who have come from their villages to Kathmandu including their health check-up costs should be paid. “We have also asked for compensation for the family of the sugarcane farmer who died of a heart attack on Tuesday,” Khatiwada said.
“Anyone can clearly see that great injustice has been done to the sugarcane farmers by not paying them immediately for their crops while there was high demand in national and international markets for the sugar manufactured from their sugarcane," reads the interim order.
"It is a basic and universally accepted principle that anyone who sells a product in the market should get payment for it immediately. But the sugarcane farmers have been forced to go to the district headquarters and travel all the way to Kathmandu annually to hold demonstrations to get the money that is owed to them. This is unjustified and also not acceptable for the state of public welfare," states the interim order.
“The constitution assures the basic right to earn, utilise earnings, buy and sell property and benefit through business. The farmers use their own capital or take loans, and put in a lot of hard work to grow sugarcane. When they don't get money for their crops, they are not able to pay for their daily expenses, education and health care. Most importantly, they cannot repay their bank loans and face forfeiture. This shows that the sugarcane farmers have been deprived of the basic right to live a respectful life assured by the Constitution of Nepal,” the order said.
A dozen sugar mills owe the sugarcane farmers around Rs1.5 billion from the last fiscal year, according to the application submitted in the Supreme Court. Government subsidies totalling Rs1.31 billion have not reached the farmers either.
The farmers are facing the problem of non-payment every year, and as a result, they have been discouraged from growing sugarcane.
The government has announced that the country will be made self-sufficient in sugar, but this cannot be achieved without attracting farmers to take up sugarcane farming, insiders said.
The government does not seem to be serious about the problems of sugarcane farmers as it has not arrested delinquent sugar mill owners even though the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued arrest warrants against them, they said.
The Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies has made it public that there is political pressure not to arrest the sugar mill owners.