TN: Thanjavur Sugarcane Farmers Detained While Demanding Pending Dues
Leaders of AIKS and farmers association, led by CPI(M) MLA M Chinnadurai, marching towards the District Collector Office, Thanjavur, on December 21.
The Thiru Arooran Sugars Limited, located in Tirumandangudi of Thanjavur district, was shut down in 2018, citing losses and is now taken over by another organisation through auction. The sugarcane farmers who supplied cane to the mill are left in the lurch as a sum of Rs 85 crores is yet to be disbursed to them.
The farmers' troubles continue even further due to the inappropriate actions of the mills' management. The farmers are receiving notices from the banks instructing them to repay the loans taken during the sowing season of 2016 to 2018, even though the mill has deducted the amount from the farmers.
Further, the farmers alleged that the mill obtained loans from several banks to the tune of Rs 300 crores in the name of the farmers and workers. After the government turned a blind eye to the indefinite sit-in protests from November 30, the farmers attempted to lay siege to the district collector's office, Thanjavur, on December 21, but they were detained by the police.
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Tamil Nadu Sugarcane Farmers Association have demanded that the state government intervenes immediately to save the farmers from further humiliation.
UNPAID DUES AND NON-REMITTANCE TO BANKS
The Thiru Arooran Mills, founded in 1989, made profits until the management failed to pay the farmers in the 2016-17 harvesting season. The mill was subsequently closed in 2018 without disbursing the dues to the sugarcane farmers.
“The AIKS and sugarcane farmers demanded the state government to take over the mill and ensure the farmers are protected,” P Senthil Kumar, district president of AIKS Thanjavur district unit, told NewsClick.
When the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) was approached, it recommended auctioning the property to repay the loans. The company has now been taken over by KALS Group, a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages in Tamil Nadu.
“Besides, auctioning the 720 acres land worth more than Rs 1,000 crores for a meagre Rs 147 crores, the NCLT did not consider the dues the mill owed to the farmers,” Senthil Kumar said.
Farmers on the 21st day of the sit-in protest in front of the Thiru Arooran Sugar Mills on December 20.
The farmers have raised suspicions over the urgency of the recommendations that did not ensure the disbursal of the pending Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) and State Advisory Price (SAP) for the cane supplied. The mill owes Rs 85 crores to the farmers.
“The farmers are receiving notices from banks to repay the loans taken between 2016 and 2018. The mill had deducted the payable amount from the farmers but has not paid the banks in turn,” Senthil said.
‘LOANS IN THE NAME OF FARMERS’
The looting of the mill administration did not end there. The AIKS has accused the mill has obtained loans in the name of around 7,000 farmers and workers amounting to a massive sum of Rs 300 crores.
“The AIKS launched several struggles to register complaints on those who took loans illegally in the names of farmers and workers. Though a written assurance was given to repay the loan, the farmers are still in distress over the issue,” a statement from the AIKS said.
Since the farmers are technically defaulters for the banks, the possibility of getting fresh loans is difficult for farming and personal needs. The farmers are alleging the new management of forcing them to accept the offer of receiving 57% of the pending dues in four instalments in one year.
“This will make the farmers dependent on the new management of the sugar mills. The possibility of the farmers being exploited is also high. The future of around 7,000 farmers and their families are under threat,” Senthil Kumar said.
DETAINED BY POLICE
Despite the 21-day-long sit-in protest by the farmers in front of the mill, no action was taken by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government. The agitated farmers also marched to the office of the District Collector, Thanjavur district.
“Without even holding talks, the farmers were detained by the police. We urge the chief minister to intervene urgently to address the concerns of the farmers and save them from the debt trap,” Senthil Kumar said.
Earlier on December 11, the farmers were detained for solidarity protests in different parts of Thanjavur district.
Several political parties, including the left parties, Congress and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and different farmers' organisations have pledged support to the protesting farmers. The ruling DMK and the opposition AIADMK are conspicuous by their absence in supporting the farmers.
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