IN A bid to escape the Sugarcane Control Act, 1966, most of the sugar mills which have defaulted in paying cane arrears, have approached the cooperation minister for a hearing to put a stay on the process.
The Sugarcane Control Act allows the sugar commissioner to permit confiscation of sugar stock of errant mills and auction them in order to clear the dues of cane growers. Once the sugar commissioner issues orders for recovery, it is the work of the district collector to hold auction to sell sugar and recover the dues.
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Records from the office of the sugar commissioner shows that of the 12 mills in the state who had such orders issued for non payment to growers, complete stocks of only two mills were held.
The crushing season 2014-15 was marked by non payment of dues to growers and mounting cane arrears in the state and the sugar commissioner had issued seizure and auction orders against 12 mills for not clearing their dues for the season 2014-15. Of the 12 mills, eight are private and the rest are cooperatives. The total accumulated dues of these 12 mills as of last week was Rs 246.80 crore. Six of the 12 mills have not commenced operation for the current season while the rest are operational.
Records show that till date through auction only Rs 123.79 crores has been raised with only two mills having cleared all their dues. Two of the mills have appealed to the court of the cooperation minister for quashing of the orders, which has halted the process of auction. In other cases the district collectors have recovered some amount, while auction would be carried out for recovering the rest of the amount.
Meanwhile on Thursday, growers affiliated to the Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha, led by Sadabhau Khot, held a demonstration outside the sugar commissioner’s office to protest against the slow pace of clearance of cane dues of the last season. Khot said that during a meeting held recently, cooperation minister Chandrakant Patil had expressed his helplessness about the matter.
”The minister said that his department had done its bit and the collectorate was not under his jurisdiction,” he said. Khot came down heavily on the minister and said that action should be taken against collectors who fail to adhere to orders. The farmer’s group, which is led by MP Raju Shetti, will soon start agitation at village levels to highlight their grievances.