KATHMANDU, Dec 14: The agitating sugarcane farmers have demanded that the government guarantee that their outstanding dues for their produce will be cleared before they sit for the talks.
After the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies proposed holding talks regarding their agitation, the farmers urged the government to ensure that their dues will be settled, said Saroj Mishra, coordinator of the Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee. “We received a phone call from the ministry,” he said, ”We have been deceived by the government time and again. What is the meaning of talks if our main concern is not addressed?”
He also demanded the government fix the date of their dues clearance.
“We have presented a solution to the government --- we should be paid by the government and the latter should get the money collected from the sugar mill owners,” Mishra said.
After not getting paid for their sugarcane crop for more than six years, the farmers have been staging a sit-in protest at Maitighar in Kathmandu since Sunday. Nearly 100 cane farmers from Sarlahi district in the southern belt of the country, who expected to be paid within a month after the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies committed to make necessary arrangements to get their outstanding dues cleared, staged a sit-in in the capital on Sunday in an apparent bid to exert pressure on the government.
It may be noted that the farmers had staged a sit-in in the capital in January, last year too. Then the government had assured the farmers to make sugarcane producers settle the dues within the first week of December every year. However, farmers have failed to receive the payment despite the government’s assurance.
Following their two-week long sit-in protest at Maitighar last year, the government committed to addressing their concerns. The farmers had an agreement with the government on January 3. They were assured that their outstanding dues would be cleared by January 21.
Records at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies show that farmers are yet to receive a due amount of Rs 481 million from four sugar producers, namely Shree Ram Sugar Mill, Annapurna Sugar Mill, Indira Sugar Mill and Lumbini Sugar Mill. Although the crushing season has already begun for this year, these sugar mills have not paid the farmers’ outstanding dues of the past six years.
The farmers, however, claimed that the sugar mills owe Rs 900 million to the famers who have not been paid for the past four years.