LS members demand a comprehensive welfare policy for sugar industry

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New delhi, Mar 17 (UNI) Lok Sabha members, spanning the political spectrum today demanded a comprehensive welfare policy to benefit the sugar industry, specially cane growers by ensuring full payment to them.

While welcoming the government's move to provide loans to sugar mill owners to clear arrears of the farmers and interest-free loans for upgradation, revamping and modernisation, the members demanded that a concurrent policy also be devised which would ensure timely payment of remunerative prices to the farmers by mill owners.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, while introducing the Sugar Development (Amendment) Bill, said in order to salvage the condition of the sugar mills, an Ordinance was promulgated on February 5 and this Bill will replace the above said Ordinance.

Through this Bill, the government will help the sugar mills to clear arrears of farmers by providing sub-mention to banks who will credit the amount to the mill owners.

In this, of the total 12 per cent interest, the government had accomodated five per cent through a provison in the union budget while the remaining 7 per cent would be adjusted through the Sugar Development Fund, he told the House.

Participating in the discussion on the Bill, Samajwadi party's Mohan Singh sought to question the government's policy on providing interest-free loans to mill owners while giving loans at seven per cent to other farmers.

''Despite this, mill owners failed to reimburse nearly Rs 1,900 crore due to the farmers.'' Accusing the government of 'wrong' agriculture policies which had led to the suicide of nearly 1.5 lakh farmers in the last decade, Yogi Adityanath (BJP) said farmers' dues to the tune of hundreds of crores on mills still remain, forcing them to sell sugarcane as much below the stipulated Minimum Support Price (MSP).

''Only the big and powerful were benefitting from government schemes while the small farmers are sinking further in the throes of debt, poverty and destitution,'' he said.

Also, despite the Supreme Court ruling on MSP, mills were not paying the due to the farmers who were being exploited by the mills, mafia and middlemen, he added.

Congratulating the Agriculture Minister for the bill, Congress' Balasaheb Patil sought Mr Pawar's assurance on payments being made to farmers.

''While proving funds to the mills it should be made sure that farmers get their full due.'' Dr M Babu Rao (CPI-M) castigated the government on its agriculture related policies, saying while sugar mills got loans, subsidies and other support, there was no scheme to benefit the farmers.

''Why can't a separate fund be created for the benefit of farmers who were the real ones to suffer in any given circumstance.'' At least the government should ensure that the minimum support price reaches the farmers, which too was being denied to them by mill owners, he added.

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