Thousands of sugarcane farmers in the Tenkasi and Tiruvannamalai districts of Tamil Nadu will receive payments due for fourteen months, by March 31. The breakthrough came about after the Tamil Nadu Sugarcane Farmers Association, affiliated with the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), held a sit-in protest for four long days in front of the organisation which had been withholding payments to the farmers.
The farmers will receive a sum of Rs 56 crores from two units of Dharani mills. However, the management has refused to pay the amount with interest as stipulated by the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966. The AIKS has decided to approach the court in order to claim the farmers’ rights.
PROTESTS PERSISTED FOR 80 HOURS
After a prolonged wait of fourteen months, the sugarcane farmers decided to hold a sit-in protest in the Polur and Vasudevanallur units of Dharani Mills in the Tiruvannamalai and Tenkasi districts with the management delaying payments. After the farmers continued with their protests for more than 80 hours, the district administration decided to intervene. The administration held tri-partite talks with the management and the protesting farmers to find a solution.
G. Raveendran, the state vice-president of AIKS and leader of the sugarcane farmers association told NewsClick that the administration had to come in after the 80-hour-long protest. “The talks held yielded favourable solutions for the farmers. The mill management has agreed to settle the balance till March 31. The farmers in Vasudevanallur will receive a part payment on March 10 and the remainder until March 31. The Polur farmers will get the complete payment between March 15 and March 31,” he added.
The mill-management declined to pay the amount with interest to the farmers as per the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966. The order mandates mills to pay the farmer’s dues within 14 days of the delivery of sugarcane at the factory gate. If they fail, the mills are required to clear the dues with an additional interest calculated at 15% per annum. The AIKS has decided in favour of a legal battle to claim the rights entitled to the farmers.
“The farmers are paying interest to the banks for loans that they have availed. On the other hand, the management has refused to pay the interest even after a delay of fourteen months,” said Raveendran. “We cannot let this happen, as the provision of interest is the farmers’ right,” he added, mentioning that while the district administration has ensured their support, they have decided to take legal action.
DEMAND FOR MSP
The AIKS has also been insisting that both the State and Union Governments revise incentives and the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for sugarcane. Prior to the 2014 General Elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to fix the MSP at 50% more than the input cost as per recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Committee. The promise, however, remains only on paper as do most of the other promises made by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Meanwhile, input costs for the sugarcane crop have been on a steady increase and the MSP set at Rs 2612.50 per tonne by the Union Government is highly insufficient. The State Government has also not revised the incentive of Rs 137.50 per tonne which has been paid to farmers for the past three years.
“We are demanding that the MSP be fixed at Rs 4500 per tonne and the incentive be fixed as Rs 400 per tonne for FY 2020-21. The revision of the amount alone can help the farmers sustain,” said Raveendran.