HC: Sugar mills told to clear farmers' dues by Aug 31
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday asked the sugar mills of Punjab and Haryana to clear dues of sugarcane farmers by August 31.
The direction came from the division bench of justice SK Mittal and justice HS Sidhu during the hearing of a public interest litigation seeking disbursal of dues of farmers for the season 2014-15.
During the hearing, assistant solicitor general, government of India, Chetan Mittal told the high court that the Union government had come out with a scheme of soft loan to sugar mills to clear farmers' dues. A provision of Rs 6,000 crore has been made under the scheme. However, loans would be given to mills that have already cleared their 50% dues.
Under the scheme, the amount is to be paid in the farmers' accounts and not through the middlemen. The central government has promised to pay 10% interest on these loans to the nationalised banks from where these mills have to seek loans, the court was told.
The petitioner's counsel Ishpuneet Singh said though latest figures were not available, rough estimates reveal that Haryana had cleared around 80% and Punjab around 70% of farmers' dues.
The high court directed the sugar mills, both government-run and private, to make efforts to clear the dues by August 31. It also asked both the governments not to take any coercive method against any mill till the next date of hearing.
All respondents have also been directed to file a status report by the next date of hearing on September 10.
It was only after the high court intervention that private as well as government-owned sugar mills expedited the process of clearing the farmers' dues earlier this year. As per an affidavit filed in May, Punjab owed Rs 294.38 crore to its farmers and Haryana Rs 576 crore.