The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed the Punjab cane commissioner to expedite the process of disbursement of pending payments, along with interest, to the sugarcane growing farmers of the state.
The directions came from the division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Arun Palli, while disposing of a public interest litigation filed by Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations, Amritsar.
As per the petitioner association, around `224 crore dues are pending of the sugarcane growing farmers of Ajnala, Batala, Bhogpur, Budhewal, Gurdaspur, Nawanshahr, Fazilka, Nakodar and Morinda for the season 2013-14, without calculation of any interest upon the delayed payments. The court was informed that the cane commissioner had addressed a communication to the concerned sugar mills on March 4, pointing out violation of rules and also clearing that if payments are not made to farmers, action would be taken as per the law.
The petitioner association had also sought directions to the state government agencies to formulate an effective policy for ensuring timely payments to the sugarcane growing farmers by the sugar mills.
The court was informed that sugarcane producing farmers were facing considerable hardships as they were not receiving their payments in time from the sugar mills and they have to agitate and claim for their rights every year.
It was also added that since the farmers were not sure of receiving dividends, they were avoiding investment in the sugarcane crop that would create imbalance in the demand and supply of sugar.
Sugarcane order issued on July 16, 1966, and last amended in November 2010, provides a period of 14 days to the sugar mills to make the payment to the sugarcane farmers. Thereafter the mills would be liable to pay interest at the rate of 15% upon the delayed payment.
The petitioner further informed the court that after the high court directions of August 2012, even at this stage all the farmers have not been paid interest upon the delayed payments.