The Maharashtra state government Tuesday faced a major embarrassment when Minister for Rural Development Pankaja Munde declared it was not possible for the sugar cooperative factory owned by her to pay the fair remuneration price (FRP) fixed by the Union government.
Munde made the confession in the Legislative Assembly after Minister for Cooperation and Marketing Chandrakant Patil said the government would enforce criminal action against sugar factories if they failed to honour the FRP.
The Centre has fixed an FRP of Rs 2,200 per tonne for production of 9.5 per cent sugar (of the total cane crushed) and there will be a rise of Rs 232 a tonne for every 1 per cent rise in production.
NCP leaders are demading a financial package from the state government to facilitate the state sugar factories to pay the FRP. Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said: “The sharp decline in sugar prices, coupled with the higher FRP, has made the functioning of sugar factories extremely difficult.”
To this, Patil said the state government could not announce a financial package as the FRP had been fixed by the Centre. He, however, assured: “An all-party leaders’ delegation lead by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis would meet the central government to discuss problems of the sugar sector in Maharashtra.”
Patil added: “The sugar factories should also initiate measures to find out what exactly has gone wrong and set its own house in order instead of always seeking financial package from the government.”
Stating that some sugar factories were ready to pay the FRP, he wondered why others could not pay.
Several NCP leaders said if the state government failed to provide financial package it would lead to closure of sugar factories and adversely affect lakhs of farmers in the sugarcane sector.
“If the sugar industry is crippled, the farmers’ unrest could snowball into a major law and order problem in the state,” said Dilip Walse-Patil.
Senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil too supported the demand for a financial package.
As Patil remained firm on his stand, Pawar said: “In BJP, there are Pankaja Munde, Vinod Tawde, Haribhau Bagade and Eknath Khadse who are directly or indirectly running sugar factories. Ask them if they can pay the FRP.”
Pankaja then stood up and said: “I admit I cannot pay the FRP. Yet, if the government takes action against those who defy FRP it would be applicable to all. The chief minister should lead a team to discuss the issue with the Centre.”