Stalemate between Punjab Government and protesting sugarcane growers come to an end on Wednesday evening with the government announcing Rs 25 per quintal bonus directly to the farmers besides asking the private sugarcane mill owners to immediately start crushing operations — following which the farm leaders also announced to lift dharna.
At the same time, the Government also announced immediate release of Rs 65 crores towards the interest on loans taken by private sugar mill owners to clear pending dues of farmers.
The development came after the Chief Minister met the owners of the state’s private sugar mills, including Rajinder Singh Chadha, Kamal Oswal, Rana Inder Partap Singh, Jarnail Singh Wahid and Kunal Yadav, at his official residence in the afternoon.
Sugarcane growers have been holding dharna at several places across state, blocking roads, outside different sugar mills, demanding payment of their dues.
After the Chief Minister’s announcement, the message has been sent across and the farmer leader Jangveer Singh Chauhan, who has been leading the protest by sugarcane growers at Dasuya, declared that they will be lifting the dharna now as their demands have been met.
Earlier, some protestors at Phagwara refused to lift dharna demanding full pending payment of Rs 400 crore. Talks of the farmers continued for long with Kapurthala Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of Police on behalf of the State Government, who have been camping in a house close to dharna.
However, hours later, the protestors announced removing of dharna with two assurances — the Wahid Sandhar Mill should make the pending payment by January 15 and secondly, the mill should start taking new stock of sugarcane in 10 days.
Capt Amarinder, after holding detailed deliberations during which Cabinet Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Advocate General Atul Nanda, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, among others were also present, directed the private sugar mills to immediately start the crushing operations, which have already been delayed by over a fortnight.
The Chief Minister said that the State Government would pay Rs 25 per quintal on sugarcane to the farmers directly out of the State Assured Price (SAP) of Rs 310 per quintal, while the remaining Rs 285 per quintal would be paid to them by the private sugar mills.
Capt Amarinder has also directed the Financial Commissioner (Development) to ensure smooth commencement of crushing, along with meticulous implementation of the settlement reached between the owners of the sugar mills and the State Government, said an official spokesperson.
In line with the commitment made by the State Government in 2015 to bear the interest on the loan of Rs 200 crore taken by the private sugar mills to clear the payment of farmers for 2015-16 crushing season, the Chief Minister also announced that the State Government would immediately release accumulated interest, amounting to nearly Rs 65 crore, directly to the farmers to partly clear dues of Rs 192 crore pending with the private mill owners.
The private mill owners assured the Chief Minister that the balance amount due to the farmers for the crushing season 2017-18 would be paid by them directly at the earliest.