Shree Ram Sugar Mills trying to bypass govt’s 5-day deadline to pay farmers
October 13, 2018 11:30 AM NPT
By: Madan Thakur
RAUTAHAT, Oct 13: Shree Ram Sugar Mills Limited of Garuda, Rautahat has started meetings with cane farmers to buy time to pay the latter’s dues, following a directive by the government earlier this week to clear all dues within five days.
The move by Hitesh Golchha and Bishal Agrawal, promoters of Shree Ram Sugar Mills Limited, comes against the background of the sugar mills failing to pay the farmers for years, while the government has embraced a policy of protecting them through restriction of sugar import by fixing quota and hiking customs tariff to 30 percent from 15. The mill owes Rs 320 million to cane farmers.
The mill management on Friday invited the association of cane-growers at the mills to discuss on the issue and offered to pay the bills in three installments. The move is in contrary to the government’s announcement of obliging sugar mills to settle payments within the given deadline, which expired on Friday.
Executives of Sugarcane Producers Association informed that they have been pressurized to reach an agreement for receiving payments in three installments.
Treasurer of the association, Manoj Kumar Sahani, informed that they have received huge pressure for accepting the payment in at least two installments—first of Rs 100 million within the deadline given by the government, and second of Rs 100 million only after the new crushing season begins later this year.
“They have proposed to push the payment worth Rs 120 million of the previous year to next year,” said Sahani. “They themselves have come forward to negotiate with farmers to dodge government action.”
The association, however, denied settling the matter as proposed by sugar mill, according to Sahani.
The chair of the association, Ashok Prasad Yadav, was not present in the meeting as he was on a trip to India for treatment.
Minister for Industry, Commerce, and Supplies Matrika Prasad Yadav had vowed to force sugar mills to clear dues in five days at an inter-ministerial meeting on Monday.
The joint meeting of different ministries -- Finance; Agriculture and Livestock Development; Industry, Commerce and Supplies; Forest and Environment; and Federal Affairs and General Administration -- had issued a warning to sugar mills to pay farmers within the deadline.
The sugar mills fear that they will be punished for not following the decision of the inter-ministerial meeting. The chief district officers in the concerned districts are authorized to initiate dialogues on the matter. But the sugar mill promoters are trying to make deals out of the local administration’s purview.
Farmers have said that they have no money to spend for the upcoming Dashain festivals, as they have not received their due payments.
“We were happy that the government will really implement its promise of making sugar mills pay the bills, but we are disheartened to know that the sugar mills have again started lobbying for delaying the payment,” said Shiva Chandra Patel, a cane grower of Gadhimai Municipality of Rautahat district.
Shree Ram Sugar mill owes Rs 200,000 to Patel alone for the cane purchased last crushing season.
Hitesh Golchha confirmed that they were deliberating with the farmers. “We are discussing with the association on the matter but have not given pressure at all,” said Golchha, who declined to comment on the government’s decree to clear the bills within five days.