S. Sundar

Say they should be allowed to sell sugar, molasses and power

MADURAI: The Tamil Nadu Toddy Movement has proposed a new formula, limiting the role of sugar mills to crushing the cane while allowing farmers to take back the sugar and molasses.

The mills should charge only for the crushing work and farmers should have the liberty to sell the end products, including power, in domestic and international markets, they say.

The proposal has been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Talking to reporters here on Tuesday, coordinator of the Movement C. Nallasami said that farmers were tired of seeking compensatory price for cane from the government and mills.

“The mills make up to Rs.14,000 from a tonne of cane by producing 95 kg of sugar, 100 units of electricity and 45 kg of molasses (used to make Indian-made foreign liquor). At the same time, the government and the mills do not come forward to give even Rs.2,000 for a tonne of cane to farmers,” he said.

Stating that the mills need not give the procurement price demanded by farmers, if it did not work profitable to them, he said, “Instead, let them stop with making sugar by carrying out the crushing work alone. We will pay a price fixed by the government towards crushing charge.

Act irrelevant

Mr. Nallasami said the Sugarcane Control Act was irrelevant in a globalised economy and against the interests of farmers. “How can the farmers be forced to sell their produce only to a particular mill at a rate fixed by the government in a globalised economy? Does it not amount to the government itself promoting bonded labour?”

The State and the Centre should realise that farmers were not second-grade citizens. It was not fair to allow the mills to prosper even as the farmers suffered in poverty. “The government should take suitable measures to increase the area of cane cultivation and produce the necessary quantity of sugar instead of importing it. Import of sugar in an agriculture-based country is a national shame.”

Intensified protest

The Movement would intensify tapping and selling of toddy, defying the prohibition laws, if the government did not lift ban on toddy tapping. “Besides selling toddy packed in tins and bottles, we will produce wine from it and sell it from January 21.” . The Movement was ready to withdraw its demand if the government proved that toddy was not good for health.