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Sugar mills stop payment of dues to growers

By Asif Mehmood
March 25, 2021

LAHORE: The sugar mills have stopped payment of over Rs15 billion dues to the cane-growers after the expiry of Sugar Factories Control (Amendment) Ordinance 2020.

The sugar mills purchased 2 trillion and 41 lakh of rupees sugarcane from the Punjab growers after the Ordinance promulgated to ensure the rights of farmers on 22 March, 2020. The payments of these purchases were made in 15 days according to the Ordinance. But, the payments to the growers have been stopped after the expiry of the Ordinance on March 22.

Under the Sugar Factories Control (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 applicable for six months, denying the payment of dues to the growers in 15 days and illegal cuts were a crime the punishment for which was three-year jail and a fine of Rs5 million.

When contacted, Cane Commissioner Punjab Zaman Wattoo told The News several sugar mills have stopped payment of dues to the growers. Out of these mills, six have defaulted on Rs 15 million, he said. “No action can be taken against these six mills due to lapse of Ordinance”, he added.

The Cane Commissioner said as the Sugar Factories Control Act 1950 has been re-enforced, neither proceeding for FIR against the defaulters can be done nor any arrest can be made or punishment given. He asked the growers who had to be paid by the mills on March 21 but not got the payments after the lapse of Ordinance to contact relevant deputy commissioners and the Cane Commissioner Punjab for action against the sugar mills under the Ordinance.

Reliable sources said the Sugar Factories Control (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 was extended for another three months after remaining in force for 90 days and was to be made a law by the Punjab Assembly. The Bill was sent to the Special Committee of the Punjab Assembly. The Food Minister could not attend the two meetings of the committee because of his engagements.

The sources told The News Law Minster Raja Basharat expressed his anger over the lapse of Ordinance during the meeting of the Special Committee. The minister told the meeting it was inefficiency of the departments concerned that the Ordinance promulgated to protect the rights of farmers could not be made into law.

Law Minster Raja Basharat was told during the meeting Food Minister Aleem Khan could not attend the meeting due to his other engagements, while Secretary Food Assad Rahman Gilani had contracted Corona and was on leave till March 28.

Law Minister has convened the meeting of the Special Committee again on March 29 to finalise the Bill.