The state government in a major decision has put up 29 cooperative sugar factories for sale after their failure to remain operational.
The factories, some of which are linked to heavyweight state politicians, have been non-functional for more than five years — often due to financial mismanagement — despite being given a long rope in terms of financial packages and hefty loans.
Politics in Maharashtra is considerably influenced by sugar cooperatives.
The Centre had earlier floated financial packages to bail out these sick units. But now even the state government has run out of patience. State cooperatives minister Harshawardhan Patil said some banks lending money to the factories were themselves facing a financial crisis on this count. A government-appointed study group recommended their auctioning.
“Despite various possible measures, these factories did not become functional and so the government has decided to auction them soon,” said Patil. “Sugar commissioner Rajgopal Deora has been asked to initiate the auctioning process.”
Most of the 29 factories are from Marathwada and western Maharashtra, a stronghold of the NCP.
Some factories are directly run either by political leaders or their kin. These include the Godavari sugar industries by Bhaskarrao Patil-Khatgaonkar, brother-in-law of Chief Minister Ashok Chavan; Sudhakarrao Naik sugar industries, named after a former state chief minister and run by his family and Barashiv Sugar industries, in control of former cooperatives minister Jaiprakash Mundada.
Since all 29 units going for auction are cooperative, preference would be given to buyers in the cooperative sector, Patil said.