PUNE: Farmers from the Kalamb taluka of Osmanabad are on a hunger strike since Monday at the entry gate of Sakhar Sankul, the State Sugar Commissionerate, in Shivajinagar. The farmers, who sold their sugarcane produce to the Shambhu Mahadev Sugar Factory, claim that they have not received any payment as the factory in the process of liquidation.
The sugar factory, which declared bankruptcy before the 2017-18 crushing season, had no licence from the government to continue operations. Yet, the factory took in sugarcane from nearby areas and crushed 59,020 metric tonnes of sugarcane.
“It has been five months since the crushing stopped, but the factory has not paid a single rupee to farmers. We have tried agitations at the local level, approached authorities, approached all possible forums, but there has been no action yet. We have now approached the commissioner and are waiting for action on their part. We are told that we will be paid once the auction process of the factory is completed,” said Mohan Gund, of PWP, adding, “What use is the payment once the sowing season ends?
We also had fixed deposits with a small bank run by the directors of the factory. The bank too has shut down and our money there is gone with them” said Shahu Thombare, an affected farmer. “The director Dilip Apet is now absconding. We do not know whom to approach for justice. We have tried democratic methods but if need be, we will show what farmers can do,” he added.
Thombare had sold 150 tonnes of sugarcane to the factory. More than 2,900 farmers like him had supplied between 30 tonnes and 600 tonnes of sugarcane per head. Payments up to Rs 10 crore are pending with the factory. When asked whether they knew about the factory not having a licence, Thombre said, “We are farmers, it is neither our job nor our skill to know about licenses. What is the government for.”
The farmers say that they have been helplessly approaching politicians and even the chief minister, but have got no response. “They refused to even give us a timeline. The interest on the loans that we took to sow the cane is rising every day and the next season is about to begin,” said Thombare, adding, “Our rightful money is denied to us when we are alive and then when we commit suicide, the government pays us Rs 1 lakh. We are being forced to commit suicide as a policy.”