BUTWAL, Jan 3: The Lumbini Sugar Mills of Nawalparasi has expressed commitment to ‘resolve internal problems’ and start paying the can farmers within a week. It has stated that it will clear all dues of farmers before mid-January as per the agreement with the government. Manoj Agrawal, proprietor of the mill, has been released after he expressed his written commitment to start paying the farmers within a week. Agarwal was arrested from Parsa on Thursday. He was brought to Nawalparasi on the same night.
The farmers, who had not received payment for sugarcane for the past two years, had filed a case against the industry operator accusing him of fraud.
Sugarcane farmers Gyan Chandra Yadav, Jarnadan Yadav, Birendra Kumar Gupta, Harilal Gupta and Arjun Chaudhary of Sunwal Municipality had filed the fraud case against Sushila Goyal (Agrawal) on December 17.
The mill which is registered in the name of Manish Agrawal, was handed over to Mrs Sushila Goyal Agrawal after his death. The police arrested Manoj Agrawal, brother-in-law of Sushila because he had inherited the factory and was involved in the incident.
A discussion was held between sugarcane farmers, police and administration at the District Administration Office, Nawalparasi on Friday to resolve the matter. Farmers have warned that they will not allow the mill to operate until they are paid. Chief District Officer of Nawalparasi Sagar Mani Pathak said that Agrawal had asked for a week to get the loan approved.
According to Pathak, Agrawal has been released on own recognizance (O.R.) as he made a written commitment to make the payment after settlement of ‘internal affairs’. “We will take legal action if they do not start paying sugarcane farmers within the stipulated time,” said CDO Pathak. According to the latest agreement reached between the sugarcane farmers and the government, the industrialists who do not pay the full amount before mid-January will be punished according to the law.
The industry has deposited Rs 20 million in the bank after the mill owner was arrested in a fraud case. Out of that, Rs 19 million has been sent to the farmers' accounts till Friday. Agrawal had said in the discussion, that the process of taking a loan of Rs 50 million each from two banks has started.
The Lumbini Sugar Mills in Sunwal had crushed 224,000 quintals of sugarcane in 2018 BS. It has to pay Rs 100 million more to the farmers at the rate of Rs 471 per quintal, the price set by the government. Stating that the industry was expecting bankruptcy, some of the farmers have been paid only Rs 385 per quintal. So, the mill claims that its remaining arrears are worth Rs 80 million. But the farmers are claiming that the mill is yet to pay Rs 100 million. Gyan Chandra Yadav, a farmer of Rajahar, Sunwal Municipality-2, said that the mill has been harassing the farmers for the past two years. According to Yadav, about 70 percent farmers in Sunwal area have started destroying sugarcane farms due to non-receipt of payment.
Another suga mill in Nawalparasi, Indira Sugar Mill, has also not paid Rs 80 million to the farmers. Sugarcane farmers have also filed a fraud case against Rakesh Agrawal, the operator of the mill. But the police have not arrested Agarwal yet.
The mill deposited Rs 8 million in the bank a few days ago after the farmers filed a fraud case. But the amount has not been transferred to the farmers’ accounts yet. According to Pathak, a case of fraud has been registered against industrialist Agrawal. Until a few years ago, Nawalparasi was considered the second largest sugarcane producing district after Sarlahi.
But the sugarcane farmers are struggling as they are forced to sell their produce at lower prices than the prices fixed by the government. According to the Sugarcane Producers Farmer Committee, Nawalparasi, sugarcane cultivation has been limited to 5,000 hectares as compared to 30,000 hectares a decade and a half ago.