Agitating sugarcane farmers have decided to withdraw their protest for the time being after a four-point agreement was reached between them and the government in Kathmandu on Monday.
During a meeting between the Sugarcane Farmers’ Struggle Committee and officials of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies yesterday, the Ministry agreed to make sugar mill owners pay the farmers’ dues within three weeks.
The government also agreed to take legal action against sugar mill owners with coordination from stakeholders concerned if the latter fail to clear dues within the stipulated time.
More than 300 sugarcane farmers from various Tarai districts had arrived in Kathmandu some two weeks ago and had been staging protests daily in Maitighar since December 13 to exert pressure on sugar mill owners as well as government authorities for clearance of their outstanding dues.
Farmers say they have not been paid by various sugar mills, some for the past six years, for their produce worth millions of rupees.
Yesterday’s agreement states that the government will form a ten-member joint technical committee to solve other related problems of sugarcane farmers. The committee will include representatives from concerned ministries, sugarcane farmers, Nepal Sugar Producers’ Association and Sugarcane Farmers’ Struggle Committee.
According to the Sugarcane Farmers’ Struggle Committee, sugar mills have yet to pay farmers Rs 900 million while mill owners have informed the Ministry of Industry that only Rs 650 million arrears are due.
“As the claims of mill owners and sugarcane farmers differ on the amount to be paid, the technical committee will make recommendations in this regard after ascertaining the facts,” the MoU signed between the Ministry and farmers reads.
Similarly, it has been agreed to request the Ministry of Home Affairs to immediately postpone the decision of the District Administration Office, Sarlahi to allow sugarcane farmers to sell their produce only to sugar mills within the radius of 10 km from their residencies.
Chairman of the Struggle Committee Ramswarth Raya said that farmers will temporarily withdraw their agitation Tuesday onwards as the agreement was signed.
In the midst of the agitation, Shri Ram Sugar Mill has claimed to have cleared arrears of around Rs 253,027,000.
Similarly, Annapurna Sugar Mill has claimed to have been paying farmers around Rs 10 million daily since December 20. Lumbini Sugar Mill has made an agreement with the farmers to clear all dues by January 14.
Earlier, agitating farmers had said that they felt betrayed by the government for the latter’s failure in implementing past agreements, and would return home with all their money.
Rakesh Mishra of the Struggle committee said that they had agreed to postpone their agitation as the land and travel documents of the non-paying mill owners were blocked and shares of various companies have also been blocked. “This time, we are hopeful to receive our full payment,” he said.