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LAHORE: The growers organizations have warned to besiege the Punjab Assembly if the non-payment of delayed payment to sugarcane growers by the sugar factories is not made a cognizable offence in the proposed Punjab Sugar Factories (Control) bill laid down in the provincial assembly.

They also demanded that an inquiry be conducted into the earlier 'secret' passage of an anti-farmer amendments which were later take back by introducing the bill in the Punjab Assembly afresh.

Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) CEO Afaq Tiwana, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) President Khalid Khokhar, Punjab Water Council Convener Farooq Bajwa, Kissan Bachao Tehrik's Muhammad Yaseen, Muhammad Ahmad Wattoo of Insaf Lawyers Forum and others while addressing a joint press conference here on Monday expressed their concerns over the passage of an earlier bill on the subject. "We have checked from many provincial legislators who say that the bill was not laid in the Assembly. We demand "Assembly ko izzat do", they added.

They demanded that anti-farmer clauses be removed from the present bill laid in the assembly, offences under the Sugar Factories Act 1950 be made cognizable and non-bailable and heavy penalties be incorporated in it. "Without it, the exploitation of mills will not stop," they warned.

They said payment be made within 15 days of the supply of sugarcane to the mill through the bank accounts. Forum of cane commissioner for dispute/claim settlement of the farmers be restored.

The lawyers' representative said they stand with their farmers. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to protect the rights of growers by promulgating ordinance which saw timely reaping of sugarcane and sowing of wheat which led to record production.

Later, representative and members of these growers' bodies also staged a protest in front of the Lahore Press Club to press the government for acceptance of their demands.

Appreciating the promulgation of Sugar Factories (Control) (Amendment) Ordinance 2020, the growers said that before this ordinance sugar mills used to deduct up to 29% from the weight of sugarcane. Acreage under sugarcane is around 20 lakhs. "If average produce is taken 700, total deduction illegally made from the farmers in the year 2017-18 was of Rs73 billions. Situation in other years was also almost same," they claimed.

Sugar mill delayed the payments of growers. The needy farmers were forced to sell their CPRs at commission up to 15%. Almost 50% growers had to pay this commission or deduction. Thus an amount of Rs20 billion was defrauded on this count. The mills did not pay the 11% mark up on delayed payments. 50% payment was delayed for at least one month. An amount of Rs1.25 billion was defrauded on this count, the growers alleged.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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