The recent political crisis invited by the dissolution of the House of Representatives has overshadowed ongoing sugarcane farmers’ protest, which is on its second week now.
Sugarcane farmers from different parts of Tarai arrived in Kathmandu and have been staging protests daily along the stone-cold road of Maitighar demanding sugar mills to clear their dues worth millions of rupees for the past 10 days now.
Sugar mill owners have not paid the farmers for their produce since past four years. Though various political parties and organizations have expressed solidarity with the farmers’ movement, their plights have been overshadowed in the last few days as the focus is shifted towards ongoing political crisis.
Due to the bone-chilling cold of Kathmandu, the number of agitating farmers falling sick has also increased.
“Though the recent political turmoil has affected farmers’ movement, we are determined to stay our ground,” said Ramswartha Raya, Chairman of the Sugarcane Farmers’ Struggle Committee, Sarlahi.
“The agitation will continue unless we receive our full payment. As we’ve been rendered penniless, there’s no point in returning home empty handed,” he said.
Though owners of Indira, Lumbini, Annapurna and Shri Ram sugar mills have started paying the arrears in installments following a week-long protest by sugarcane farmers and call for action by the government, farmers say the mills still owe them millions of rupees.
Agitating farmers suspect that the government and mill owners might be conspiring in cahoots to not make full payments by disbursing small amounts in installments for now.
“Though the government declared that it will arrest deceitful mill owners, it has not happened yet. Political leaders have mediated to get us some payment in small amounts, but we suspect that they are strategizing to not pay us in full,” said Raya.
“They are trying to sweep our issue under the rug by paying Rs 50,000-60,000 to the farmers who need to be paid Rs 500,000 lakh Rs 10,000-20,000 to those who should get Rs 70,000-80,000,” he said.
According to Harishyam Raya, secretary of Struggle Committee, farmers Hari Prasad Yadav and Rajend Mandal fell ill around three days ago due to excessive cold while Hari Raya fell sick on Tuesday. Similarly on Wednesday, Rameshwar Yadav and Ramananda Raya are said to have fallen ill.
Meanwhile, the farmers have decided to hold another round of dialogue with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies on Thursday.
Uddhab Adhikari, founding president of National Farmers Group Federation, Nepal said, “Though some mill owners have started paying the farmers small amounts in installments, it looks like they’re only trying to dismiss the farmers’ movement by giving them false assurances.”