IN A major crackdown on private sugar mills in the state, the Punjab government Wednesday sealed godowns of several sugar mills and also distilleries run by some of them to recover pending dues worth Rs 223 crore from them. These mills have Rs 113 crore pending towards cane growers and Rs 110 crore pending as mandatory recovery charges.
The decision to recover the dues from the mills was taken at a cabinet meeting held a couple of days ago. It is learnt that on the orders of Deputy Commissioners (DCs), a team of officials from Taxation and Excise Department, Food and Civil Supply Department, Punjab Co-operative Societies, Punjab Revenue Department and police officials sealed these mills — three in Doaba region, two in Majha and two in Malwa region.
Earlier, on September 1, the Punjab state government in its order from the office of cane commissioner to the owners of all the seven private mills of state had asked them to pay Rs 113 crores dues to the cane growers of the state by September 10 or face action. However, the mill owners did not comply and threatened to close the mills for the coming crushing season.
Later, the Punjab state government paid the farmers to avoid unrest. Significantly, the rate of cane in Punjab was fixed at Rs 295 per quintal by the Punjab state government and out of which 16 sugar mills, including seven private and nine co-operative mills, had to pay Rs 245 per quintal (as per an agreement with the government) to the farmers and remaining Rs 50 was to be paid by the government. This decision was taken in the light of poor per quintal rate of sugar during last season but a condition was also put that if the rate of the sugar will be above Rs 3000 per quintal then the subsidy amount would be paid by the mills only, said sources.
Punjab Agriculture Minister Tota Singh, when contacted, told The Indian Express that the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) have been asked to seal the stocks of all the seven sugar mills. “We do not want any clash with the owners of the mills and if they pay the dues then their stocks will not be touched. They are only sealed as of now,” he said. “We have always taken care of the interest of the sugar mill owners. They made huge profits and should now pay mandatory charges as well as government’s dues,” added the minister.