Mill owners to challenge bill
on december 16, Rajya Sabha passed the sugarcane bill that protects the interests of farmers. The bill ensures mill owners continue to pay farmers the price difference between the fair remunerative price (frp), fixed by the Centre, and the state administered price (sap), which is higher.
The Essential Commodities (amendment) Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha on December 10 and reverses the October 21 ordinance that shifted the burden of paying the price difference from mill owners to the state. “If the burden of the sap was to be borne by the state, we would not have got higher prices for sugarcane. The mills profit; they should pay,” said Rajendra Singh Tomar, member of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (see ‘Sweet victory’, Down To Earth, December 31, 2009). Farmers are unhappy with a provision in the bill that revokes a clause in the Sugarcane Order of 1966 on profit-sharing between the mill owners and farmers. “This move is not in favour of the farmers,” said T Haque, patron of National Alliance of Farmers Association.
Once the bill is enacted, frp will determine the price of levy sugar— sugar that mills sell to the Centre for public distribution. “We will challenge the bill,” said an official of the Indian Sugar Mills Association. “It is against the Supreme Court ruling of March 2008 in Mahalakshmi Sugar Mills Company v Union of India in which the court said the Centre should pay the state advised price for levy sugar.”
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