As they wait for sugar mills to clear payments from last year’s crushing season, many sugarcane growers are now alleging that they are being forced to pay Rs 60 to 65 per quintal cane to get the “entry slips” for their getting their produce inside sugar mills for crushing.
“My cane is ready for crushing, but I am not getting the entry slip, which is mandatory to take the cane-trolley inside the mill, as the surveyors/agents of the mills have been demanding Rs 65 per quintal cane to issue the entry slip. I have no option but to pay them,” said a farmer Daljit Singh of Domeli village in Kapurthala district. He added that because of this he “will not get any benefit of the fixed price of the cane by government”. The government rate for cane is Rs 310 per quintal and after a cut of Rs. 60 to 65, the farmers claim that they get Rs 245 to 250 per quintal only.
“This year the private sugar mills preferred to bond less cane so that mills remain free from any responsibility towards farmers and their surveyors or agents can loot farmers in the name of providing entry slips,” said another farmer Rajinder Singh Thakur of Mukerian in Hoshiarpur district.
The slips should be issued to farmers directly by mills not to agents, said another farmer.
“When we come with our cane to mills, they hardly issue us slips due to which we are have to spend nights under open sky in such extreme cold….Sometimes, it takes four to five days to get the trolley unloaded. It is difficult to wait for long in such extreme cold weather so we sell cane to agents of the mills,” said another farmer from Jalandhar’s Kotwali village.
Cane growers alleged that these agents were looting farmers on the behest of mill officials.
A senior officer at a private mill in Doaba region on the condition of anonymity said that the mills’ management hires middlemen to buy sugarcane from the ‘free area’, which is not bonded (to a mill), and give preference to the farmers of ‘free area’ first so that mills can be run for at least 180 days as every private mill has the capacity of crushing for around 5,000-6,000 tonnes sugarcane in 24 hours. The term free area means the buying of sugarcane from those farmers who have not bonded their cane to that particular mill.
“The mill management knows that farmers who have bonded cane with them will not go to any other mill and give preference to free area,” said the mill officer.
President of Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society, a cane growers’ union, Baldev Singh Sirsa, said that they have been getting such complaints from the farmers that agents of the mills in some private sugar mills in Doaba and Majha have been looting them on the name of entry slips.
Warning private mills, he said that if mills do not stop this illegal practice then farmers will launch another massive protest soon. Punjab Cane Commissioner Jaswant Singh could not be reached for his comments.