KATHMANDU, Jan 1: Sugarcane farmers, who have launched capital-centric protests to draw the government’s attention to mount pressure on the sugar mills to clear the dues of the farmers, have warned to launch stern decisive protests from next week, alleging that the government authorities are not serious about resolving the problems of the farmers.
Kapil Muni Mainali, president of Nepal Sugarcane Producers' Association, said the farmers’ action committee meeting to take place on Monday, will come up with a schedule of protest programs. According to him, the cane farmers will not step back until all their issues are addressed. “Our demands include revising the floor price of sugarcane, clearing of past dues fully by the sugar mills and compensation to the farmer who died a few days ago,” Mainali said.
For the past three weeks, sugarcane farmers have been in a sit-in protest in the capital to pressure the government and the sugar mills to clear their dues. During the period, Narayan Ray Yadav, a sugarcane farmer from Sarlahi, died of heart attack after an agreement was reached between a group of farmers and the government. Yadav who was looking to recover Rs 2.46 million from Annapurna Sugar Mill was dissatisfied with the agreement.
Farmers alleged that the agreement was an outcome of the “influence of a handful of middlemen who allied with the sugar mills and the government officials”. “Mill operators paid a small portion of the payment dues to a few farmers and pressurized the government and farmers to sign the agreement,” Mainali said.
According to the farmers, six sugar mills are yet to clear the farmers’ money that amounts around Rs 700 million in total. Although Annapurna Sugar Mills owed Rs 300 million to farmers, the factory is reported to have manipulated the amount as it has claimed in the record submitted to the government body that it has to pay only Rs 170 million to the farmers.
Likewise, Shreeram Sugar Mill is yet to pay Rs 200 million, Lumbini Sugar Mill Rs 100 million, Indira Sugar Mill Rs 80 million, Mahalaxmi Sugar Mill Rs 60 million and Bagmati Khadsari Sugar Mill Rs 4 million to the farmers.
Mainali said after farmers launched the protest, Shreeram Sugar Mill paid around Rs 160 million to farmers whereas other sugar mills have paid very little amount to the farmers. “Moreover, a number of these factories have been paying the farmers personally rather than paying through a government-set banking channel,” he said.
Bowing to the pressure of farmers, police on Thursday arrested Manoj Agrawal, proprietor of Lumbini Sugar Mill. Agrawal who leased the sugar mills from the government in 2014/15 hasn’t paid the farmers since then.