Sugarcane farmers’ plight: “The government will hear our death rattle”
Kathmandu, 31 December (2019) – Sugarcane farmers from Sarlahi district in eastern Tarai have come to Kathmandu after being deprived of payments from the sugar mills.
These agitating farmers have met Minister of Agriculture Ghanshyam Bhusal and opposition party leader Gagan Thapa in vain.
Sugarcane farmers have been demonstrating at Maitighar Mandala which is at a stone’s throw from government secretariat Singh Durbar every day for the last two weeks. But there is no guarantee that they will get the payment they have been deprived of for the last five years.
The farmers say, “The government does not hear the voice of the farmers when they are alive. It may hear them after they have died.”
Raudi Mahato has come to Kathmandu from Sisautiya, Godaita Municipality in Sarlahi district. He told Lokantar, “No one hears our voice. I don’t know the minister. I am a simple farmer. I have come here because I heard that the government is nearby.”
Other farmers echo Raudi’s expression and say that they should get all due payments. Raudi Mahato has pasted a paper on his chest which reads, “Promptly pay the farmers.”
Sugar mill operators bought sugarcanes from the fields of the farmers but did not pay them for a long time. Mahato and other farmers have been agitating in Kathmandu cold to get those dues.
The whole day Mahato attends the sit-in at Maitighar and also goes to meet the political leaders. He goes to the rented room of his relative at night for the shelter.
He said that he did not have full stomach for the last few days due to the lack of money.
He said, “I don’t have any money. It’s been 15 days since I came to Kathmandu. I have taken shelter at a room of a villager. He is an old goods scavenger. I take a little food in the morning and attend the demonstration the whole day.”
Mahato has a wife, four sons and a daughter. Sugarcane farming is the main source of his earning.
He has only five katthas of land in his name. He has taken lease of two bigahas of land for sugarcane farming and has to pay the landlord. Sugar mill has not paid him any money so he has not been able to pay the landlord as well.
Annapurna Sugar Mill of Sarlahi district bought sugarcane from Mahato for the last four years but has not paid him any money. “I have to take around 400,000 rupees from the sugar mill. How can I pay the landlord in this situation?” Mahato asks.
Mahato says that he will not do sugarcane farming in others’ lands if the government facilitates farmers’ due payment. He says that even paddy farming has made his sustenance difficult.
“I have resolved to stay here till I get the payment, I may even die here,” Mahato told Lokantar. “The government may hear our voice while we are alive, otherwise it will hear us after we die. I am ready to sacrifice my life but will not go home without the payment.”
Pradeep Mukhiya of Basbariya Rural Municipality studies at the undergraduate level in Trichandra College. He has skipped classes and is participating in the agitation at Maitighar after his fellow villagers came to Kathmandu for due payment. He said that he had come to the demonstration because his father did not get due payments for sugarcane.
Mukhiya said that they have expressed their pain at the Ministry of Agriculture but have not received any concrete answer. “The minister eats rice, lentils and oil produced in our village, he may listen to us,” Mukhiya said with hope.
Annapurna Sugar Mill had made a written agreement with the farmers to pay all dues within September this year but failed to honour the agreement, Mukhiya said.
Around 25 sugarcanes farmers from Sarlahi district have been demonstrating at Maitighar Mandala for the last 15 days. These farmers are catching cold.
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