KATHMANDU, Dec 17: The Industry, Commerce, Labour and Consumer Interest Committee of the federal parliament on Thursday asked the government to make the sugar mill operators clear all past dues of the sugarcane farmers within a week.
Since Sunday, more than 300 farmers have been staging a sit-in protest in Kathmandu to pressurize the government to get the payments for their sold-out produce. They have been demanding that their dues worth more than Rs 480 million, which has been put on hold for the past six years, be cleared at the earliest.
Speaking at the meeting, Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Lekhraj Bhatta said the government has stepped up to take action against the sugar mills deceiving sugar producers by ignoring the government notice to settle the outstanding dues. According to him, operators of a number of sugar mills have expressed their willingness to clear the farmers’ payments.
Despite the recent move by various government bodies, farmers seem not fully convinced about getting their payments. In a letter that the farmers replied to the ministry on Thursday, they raised concerns on the tripartite agreement held among the government, sugar mills and the farmers on January 21, 2020. “But even in 10 months of signing the agreement, mills have not cleared the farmers’ payments,'' reads the letter issued by Ramswartha Raya, chairman of the Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee.
The farmers said they will continue with their protests until they are paid their dues completely. “The government instead utilizes the money from the state fund to pay to the farmers and recover the equal amount along with relevant interests from the sugar mills later on,” Raya said.