The Punjab and Haryana high court has asked Punjab to ensure that private and co-operative sugar mills pay a pending amount of Rs 97 crore to sugarcane farmers along with a 10% interest by the end of September.
The division bench comprising acting chief justice Jasbir Singh and justice Tejinder Singh Dhindsa also said the mills would be liable to pay a 15% interest if they fail to make the payment in the stipulated time.
The directions on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Consortium of Indian Farmers' Association. The bench directed the state: "They (farmers) are not the beggars. Return their money immediately."
The association also submitted that even the state chief minister had issued a press release on June 23 that an amount of Rs 93.11 crore was yet to be released to the farmers for the crop of the year 2011. The bench also directed that such complaints in the future should be moved to the Punjab cane commissioner.
The petitioner had informed the court that since the cane growers were not being paid in time, they had less money to invest in the crop and that this would further result in less production of sugar by mills, which would have a domino effect on the demand and supply balance in the market.
The petitioner had also mentioned that as per information, Gurdaspur Co-operative Sugar Mill has to release Rs 17 crore to farmers; Batala Co-operative Sugar Mill owed Rs 38 crore; Morinda Co-operative Sugar Mill had to pay Rs 19 crore, Bhogpur (Jalandhar) Co-operative Sugar Mill had to pay Rs 8 crore, Nakodar Co-operative Sugar Mill had to pay Rs 11 crore, Fazilka Co-operative Sugar Mill had to pay Rs 11 crore, Budhewal (Ludhiana) Co-operative Sugar Mill Rs 2 crore and Ajnala (Amritsar) Co-operative Sugar Mill Rs 14 crore.