Himansshu Bhatt| TNN |
SURAT: Cash crunch has putsouth Gujarat‘s Rs 5,500 crore rural economy under strain as over 1.2 lakh farm labourers have not received their wages for the last one week and there is fear that they may be forced to migrate soon. Sugar factories and paddy farm owners have not been able to pay the workers due to cash crunch after demonetization.
The 13 sugar factories in southGujarat have started cutting and crushing job. They are expected to harvest 70,000 tonne of sugarcane in this season spending nearly Rs 500 per tonne. Labourers from Dang and Narmada districts in Gujarat and some belonging to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are paid Rs 250 per tonne on a weekly basis. Sugarcane harvesting has just started whereas paddy harvesting is 60 per cent over in south Gujarat whose sugar economy is estimated at Rs 2,500 crore, cotton market at Rs1,000 crore and milk business at Rs 2,000 crore.
“The cap on withdrawal of money from bank, which is just Rs 10,000, makes it impossible for us to make payment to all labourers. We have made arrangement for the labourers to get grocery items on credit from our credit societies. But, still we need some cash to give them,” Bardoli Sugar chairman Bhavesh Patel said. This sugar factory alone has 7,000 labourers of the estimated 70,000 workforce engaged in sugarcane harvesting. The number of labourers working in paddy fields is around 30,000. Nearly 10 per cent of these workforce has left for their homes after demonetization.
Gujarat Khedut Samaj president Jayesh Patel said, “We fear that another 20 per cent of workers may return home as there is no point in staying here without money. We plan to take out a rally on Saturday to demand that the government pay us cash and allow farmers to open accounts in district banks. If this situation continues any further, the operation of sugar factories will come to a standstill.