A five-point agreement was signed between the agitating sugarcane farmers and the government. With the inking of the agreement, the sugarcane farmers have postponed their protests, which they were staging in Kathmandu for the last several days. The sugarcane farmers from various Terai districts have been staging protest in Maitighar, Kathmandu since last Sunday after the mill owners did not pay them in time.
After the agreement, Industry, Commerce and Supply Ministry would coordinate and facilitate to provide all dues money to the farmers from the sugar mills by January 21.
The scale of injustice done to the sugarcane farmers is appalling. The sugar mill owners have not paid the farmers for years and they owe them millions of rupees. Shree Ram Sugar Mills owes Rs 420 million, Annapurna Sugar Rs 400 million, Indira Sugar Mills Rs 100 million, Lumbini Sugar Mills Rs 100 million, Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills Rs 200 million and Bagmati Sugar Mills Rs 110 million to the farmers, according to the recent report. The mill owners may forward various excuses for this but the main reason they have not paid is because they don’t want to. Here is a simple logic. Sugarcane is a cash crop. Sugar is such a commodity that easily sells in the market and consumers immediately pay for it. So mill owners make hefty profit. To take in raw materials from poor farmers to run the industry on their blood and sweat, to make profits from their blood and sweat but not to pay them is a crime. Reports show that mill owners receive huge money from state coffers as subsidy. They even take in money allocated by the government exclusively for the farmers and it is the farmers whom they push to the state of suffering.
It is an irony that the farmers have been pushed from pillar to post in a democratic republic that is known as agricultural nation committed to building a socialism-oriented economy. The Constitution contains oodles of welfare provisions in support of farmers and workers. Now the government must act as a facilitator between the farmers, industrialists and market to ensure that every player performs honestly and no one plays smart to dupe the weaker sections of society and rig the fragile system to fulfil his/her vested interests.
Sugar mill owners have made such pledges several times in the past but they have not kept them. Thus, we need to watch when this agreement will materialize and at the same time also pressure the government to abide by this pledge. We need to stand by sugarcane farmers, until justice is done to them. The government needs to send a clear message to the unscrupulous mill owners that they will be jailed if they do not pay to the farmers. Sugarcane farmers have suffered a lot during their struggle for justice. They should not be made to suffer anymore. The government should address all their concerns in such a way that they do not have to worry about not being paid by mill owners, ever again.