Maharashtra cane workers demand wage hike

By: |
September 2, 2020 3:00 AM

The wages of workers should be hiked before the start of the season as the Covid pandemic has hit the workers hard, he said in a representation to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation has estimated that the state would report 900 lakh tonne of crushing to produce 101 lakh tonne sugar.The Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation has estimated that the state would report 900 lakh tonne of crushing to produce 101 lakh tonne sugar.

Ahead of the sugar season of 2020-21, cane workers in Maharashtra have asked for a hike in their wages to Rs 400 per tonne.Workers are currently paid Rs 280 per tonne. Every season, around 6-10 lakh workers participate in the crushing operations during the cane season which stretches to over 120 odd days. Maharashtra has over 14 lakh workers, many of whom travel to other states including neighbouring Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and even Tamil Nadu in search of work.

DL Karad, president, Sugarcane Cutters and Transport Workers Union and vice president, Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU), stated that the tripartite agreement that was signed in October 2015 has expired and needs to be renewed.

The wages of workers should be hiked before the start of the season as the Covid pandemic has hit the workers hard, he said in a representation to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Workers who migrate to Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka for the season should be given wages and other facilities as per the inter-state labour laws. Shrirang Bhange, president, Maharashtra Rajya Ustod Kamgar Va Vahtuk Sanghatana, also said that the workers should be given wages of Rs 400 per tonne. The Sanghatana will be approaching the government on this issue next week, he said.

Maharashtra expects a bumper crop in the coming season of 2020-21. According to estimates made by the Sugar Commissionerate, cane has been cultivated on 10.66 lakh hectares and around 825 lakh tonne cane is expected to be crushed to produce around 93.22 lakh tonne sugar.

The Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation has estimated that the state would report 900 lakh tonne of crushing to produce 101 lakh tonne sugar.
In light of the Covid outbreak, Maharashtra sugar millers had anticipated a labour shortage, and accordingly, farmer entrepreneurs had placed orders for around 200 new harvesting machines, each costing around Rs 1 crore.

Sanjay Khatal, managing director of Maharashtra State Co-operative Sugar Mills Federation, said that of the total cane harvested in the state around 5% of the cane is harvested using machines. Around 150 odd machines are in use in the state.

Bhange, however, said that cane labourers required work and therefore no shortage of labour will happen. Workers need to be tested by the factories and provided facilities for the smooth functioning of the season, he said.

Maharashtra sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said that a set of guidelines would be issued before the start of the season to sugar millers for the upkeep and welfare of the cane laborers.

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