Only in Karnataka do politicos own so many sugar mills: Kurubur Shanthkumar

As sugarcane farmers have been growing increasingly restless of late over the sugar mills refusal to pay them their dues, a prominent farmers' leader, Kurubur Shanthkumar  spoke of their ordeal in the face of the factories' adamancy against paying them for their cane, in an interview with Deccan Chronicle. Excerpts: 

How many years have sugarcane growers been suffering this way? 
The problem has existed for many years with successive governments failing to address it.  While farmersw are relatively better off now than in the past  after the last government introduced the SAP rules,  it also favoured the sugar mills by amending the rules and removing the clause of a jail term for those failing to clear their dues. 

Are farmers in this situation because  politicians own the sugar mills?
Yes, this is the biggest problem. Nearly half of  the 65 sugar mills, are owned by leaders from the Congress, BJP and Janata Dal (Secular). Since one or the other of these parties is always in power, no mill takes the law seriously. Their owners are in fact so powerful that they dictate terms to the government. They are also very united when it comes to protecting their own interests. Nowhere else in India do politicians own so many sugar mills. In Gujarat, almost all the mills are in the co-operative sector and there is no problem in payment of farmers.

The government says  private sugar mills owe farmers  between Rs 80 crore to Rs 90 crore. 
The actual amount due to sugarcane growers is around Rs 480 crore. No  private mill is ready to fully disclose its arrears.

 Are private sugar mills paying farmers their price according to the rate fixed by the government? 
A majority of mills defy the rule blatantly and only pay 50 per cent of the rate fixed by the government. For example,  four sugar mills in Kalaburgi district paid Rs 1000 per quintal as against Rs 2200 fixed by the government. When farmers protested, they paid an additional Rs 200 per quintal . 

Can the Union government come to the rescue of the farmers? 
It can help  sugarcane growers by amending the Sugar Control Act 1966  and prescribing a heavy fine and  jail sentence for defaulting mills. But the Centre too is not serious about addressing our problems 


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