ITAHARI: Twenty-two people were injured in a clash between agitated sugarcane farmers and police personnel along the Hariwan section of the East-West highway today. The clash occurred when the farmers were trying to block vehicular movement along the highway section. Of the injured, 15 are police personnel and the rest are farmers. Among others, farmers Madhav Prasad Upreti, Ishwor Prasad Mainali, Durga Bahadur Chauhan, Hom Bikram Mainali and Samir Ghimire, were injured and so were DSP Yuba Narayan Baidhya, Inspectors KP Sharma, Naresh Subedi and Dhurba Shrestha.
The police allegedly fired more than two dozen tear gas shells during the clash.
The farmers manhandled Sarlahi Community Radio chairman Chudamani Wagle accusing him of sympathising with police.
Sugarcane farmers from Rajghat, Shankarpur, Saspur, Atrouli, Hariwan and other places had thronged to the Hariwan section of the highway to obstruct traffic. They vandalised more than a dozen vehicles, including an Indian tourist bus, following the clash with the police.
The farmers want the government to set the price of sugarcane at Rs 421 per quintal. They have been seeking a hike in sugarcane price in their deliberations with the stakeholders. They had also raised the issue during talks with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.
In Itahari, the agitated farmers united under Koshi Producers’ Union Sunsari-Morang, demanded that sugarcane price be increased to Rs 420 per quintal, arguing that the current price will cause them a huge loss. Shivalal Choudhari, the union’s chairman, informed that the farmers will shut the highways in the districts on January 3 and 5 in protest of sugar mills’ move to decrease the sugarcane price.
The farmers, who had staged a sit-in protest in front of the Eastern Sugar Mills on December 31, also threatened to shut the mills if the price of sugarcane is not increased.
Mewalal Mehata, a sugarcane farmer from Narsigh in Sunsari, said the farmers had started cultivating sugarcane after the mills’ agents promised them a good price last year.
He accused the sugar mills and government authorities of deceiving the farmers. Stating that price of sugarcane was fixed at IRs 401 in border areas of India, another farmer Arbinda Prasad Mehata said the farmers will not make any profit if the price of sugarcane is not increased to Rs 520 as the cost of production has gone up this year.