Realization is still in question as mill owners continue dilly-dallying
KATHMANDU, Dec 14: Bowing to the pressure of the agitating sugarcane farmers, both the government and the sugar mill owners have expressed their promptness to clear outstanding dues of the agitating farmers.
On Monday, Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta invited owners of sugar mills to provide details of the payment made to the farmers, said the ministry officials. “Minister asked the sugar producers to provide even the identity of the farmers to whom they made the payment on the date specified,” the source said.
The government’s move has come up only after farmers started a sit-in protest at Maitighar in Kathmandu. With an expectation to get the payments for their sold-out produce, around 100 cane farmers from Sarlahi district have arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday.
As the agitation of farmers draws wider support, the government appears to be under pressure to help settle the outstanding dues that various sugar mill owners owe to them. The government showed a similar move last year as well when farmers launched protests in the capital city, demanding payment of their outstanding dues. However, both the government body and the industrialists went into a long slumber after they promised farmers to settle their longstanding dues.
Following the farmers’ move, the ministry has even proposed holding talks with the agitating farmers to address their demands. However, the farmers turned down the government proposal and have sought the government’s action first to ensure settling all their dues. The ministry is set to hold talks with the proprietors of sugar mills also on Tuesday.
Records at the ministry show that the farmers are yet to receive 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 of sugarcanes has already begun for this year, agitating farmers complained that these sugar mills have been dilly-dallying to clear farmers’ accumulated dues of the past six years.
Meanwhile, Annapurna Sugar Mill said it plans to clear farmers’ dues by taking the factory into liquidation. Issuing a public notice on Monday, the sugar factory admitted its inability to pay the farmers on time. The mill owes Rs 300 million to the farmers.