National Human Rights Commission calls for the clearance of dues to protesting sugarcane farmersThe farmers have been protesting in the Capital for a week and talks with the government on Sunday were inconclusive as the deadline for clearing of the dues could not be agreed upon.
Expressing serious concern about the ongoing sugarcane farmers’ protest for a week now, Nepal Human Rights Commission Nepal has urged to immediately pay the outstanding dues to them.
The commission has urged the government and sugar mills to note to the effective implementation of the law that is provisioned for the rights of farmers, to become sensitive on the problems of sugarcane farmers, respect the work of farmers, implement the agreement done in the past with them to protect their basic and human rights.
The commission on a press statement said that it has inspected the protest by visiting them at Maitighar Mandala.
“Surviving on sugarcane farming, farmers who are not being able to receive their dues for a long time is against the basic right of the earn, utilise earnings, buy and sell property and benefit through businesses given by the Constitution of Nepal,” the commission said in a press statement.
As United Nations’ Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights, 2011 states that it is the responsibility of the business sector to protect and honour human rights, and therefore the private sector also needs to be serious on this issue, the statement said.
Similarly, the government also needs to get active as it is the state’s liability to reach out to victims for justice, the rights body added.
The commission has called for action against sugar mill owners who are not following government directions and are not clearing the dues of sugarcane farmers. Similarly, the commission requested the local administration and the government to make arrangements for immediate payment to farmers.
On Tuesday the Home Ministry had directed district administration offices to take action against mill owners who have not cleared their dues but no action has been taken against them so far.
Instead on Monday, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekh Raj Bhatta claimed that there were middlemen involved in the protests.
Agitating sugarcane farmers, who have come to the Capital from Sarlahi, Rautahat, Nawalparasi and Kapilvastu, have been holding peaceful protests from December 13 in Kathmandu demanding that they be paid outstanding dues from past years.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Shree Ram Sugar Mill has arrears of Rs350 million to be paid to the farmers, Annapurna Sugar Mill, Sarlahi owes Rs170 million in outstanding dues, followed by Lumbini Sugar Mill with Rs80.41 million and Indira Sugar Mill Nawalparasi with Rs40.70 million.
The mill owners say it owes farmers Rs550 million while farmers say they are owed Rs900 million.
The first talks between sugarcane farmers and the government regarding the outstanding dues do not reach any conclusion on Sunday.
Rakesh Mishra, patron of Sugarcane Farmer Struggle Committee said that the work procedure regarding the clearing the dues as demanded by the farmers were not clearly presented by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
“We have demanded that the work procedure for clearing the dues that the ministry and mill owners claim farmers are owed be prepared and the deadline fixed date for the dues to be cleared,” said Mishra. “A probe team must also be formed to find out how much is actually owed to farmers and action must be taken against mills that are cheating on payment to farmers.”