July 13, 2021 4:19:21 am
WEEKS AFTER the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached the land and properties of Satara-based Jarandeshwar sugar mill, the local political leadership has finally decided to lend support to farmers worried over the fate of their cane. To take stock of the situation, NCP MLC Shashikant Shinde held a meeting of farmers, transporters and other stakeholders.
Shinde, who is from the district, said there was major unrest among farmers. Located in Karad taluka of Satara, the mill had members from Koregaon and Khatav taluka of the district. Both Koregaon and Khatav are drought-prone, but irrigation projects have led to an increase in cane acreage. Initially, the mill had a crushing capacity of 2,500 tonnes of cane per day (TCD), which has since increased to 10,000 TCD. For the season 2020-21, the mill crushed 14 lakh tonnes of cane and paid farmers Rs 373.93 crore.
“Over the years the mill has been getting cane not only from Koregaon and Khatav, but also from Wai, Satara, Patan and Phaltan. Some cane also comes from as far as Baramati in Pune district,” Shinde said.
He said Jarandeshwar was one of the better paymasters in the area. “In case the mill is closed for the season, farmers will face a major loss,” he said, adding that other mills in the area would not be able to absorb excess cane or pay farmers on time.
Shinde also said the action on Jarandeshwar was politically motivated. “Even if they had to take action, they should not have attached the mill. At present, the work of expansion is on so farmers are a bit assured. But we need assurance that the normal functioning of the mill will not be hampered,” he said.
Jarandeshwar has around 50,000 farmers attached to it, and in case the mill was not allowed they would hit the streets in protest, Shinde said. “Farmers need assurance that their cane will be harvested on time,” he added.
The action on Jarandeshwar has become a focal point of the opposition BJP’s attack on the MVA government, especially the NCP. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil had written to Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding action against alleged corruption in the sale of sugar mills. By raising the issue of cane and the earning of farmers, the NCP is trying to dilute the action.
Following weeks of investigation, the ED attached the land and property of the mill for alleged corruption in the manner in which Maharashtra State Cooperative (MSC) Bank had sold the mill. The mill, sold in 2010, initially began as a cooperative mill started by former minister Shalini Patil in 2003. The mill took a few seasons before it suspended operations due to rising bad debt. The MSC bank auctioned off this mill at a price of Rs 65 crore, which the ED claimed was undervaluing of the mill.
The central agency has alleged that deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar was also involved in the deal — an allegation that he and the NCP have denied.
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