Maharashtra’s sugar-baron politicos owe farmers crores | india | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Sep 20, 2017-Wednesday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Maharashtra’s sugar-baron politicos owe farmers crores

india Updated: Sep 28, 2015 15:04 IST
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
File photo of Malegaon sugar co-operative in Baramati in Maharashtra.
File photo of Malegaon sugar co-operative in Baramati in Maharashtra. (Satish Bate/HT photo)

Business interests of Maharashtra’s sugar-baron politicians appear to have clashed with farmer welfare as mills under their control owe crores to sugarcane cultivators when a drought-driven farm crisis has besieged the state.

Sugar mills controlled by at least 34 politicians cutting across party lines have not paid more than Rs 1,200 crore to sugarcane farmers for the past six months, documents accessed by Hindustan Times reveal.

The amount is equal to the annual income of close to 1.4 lakh farming families in the state, which is heading for a fourth consecutive drought year because of failed monsoon.

Ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde, former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, former deputy chief ministers Ajit Pawar and Vijaysingh Mohite Patil as well as several former ministers and current and former MLAs and MPs control mills, which have pending dues running into crores, according to the state sugar commissioner’s data (see box for who owes how much).

Read: Maharashtra shies away from ban on sugarcane crushing in drought-hit Marathwada

The state has been reeling under a farm crisis with more than 1,900 farmers committing suicide from January to August, according to figures compiled by the state relief and rehabilitation department. More than 70% of these farmers were in debt.

Also, the state witnessed a steep increase in number of agrarian riots or clashes involving farmers this year which is highest in the country, say data compiled by the Union home ministry.

At the root of this multi-crore unsettled amount is the fair and remunerative price (FRP) — decided by the Centre every year — to be paid by the mills to sugarcane farmers for their produce. As mandated by the Sugarcane Control Order, 1966, mills could lose their assets if they fail to pay the FRP within 14 days of delivery of the raw product.

Most mills did not pay the entire FRP, which is Rs 2,200 for a tonne, to the farmers this year, blaming the slump in domestic and global sugar prices.

Read: Maharashtra halts sugarcane crushing until factories pay farmers

The Maharashtra sugar commissioner’s data show, 173 of 193 mills in the state had Rs 2,995 crore of FRP arrears till August 31. Documents reveal at least 59 of these mills are controlled by politicians.

The state government on Thursday announced mills would not be allowed to crush sugarcane in the season starting October 15 unless they clear their dues.

The farmer suicides may not be directly linked to sugarcane dues as most of them happened outside the sugarcane belt, but experts said the arrears spiked agrarian clashes. “When most crops failed, sugarcane provided assured returns to the farmers. But this year, even this buffer has gone. Several farmers have not received money for the past six months. Most of the mills are facing protests from farmers. They are desperate and angry,” said Vitthalrao Pawar of Shetkari Sangathana, Pune.

State sugar commissioner Vinay Sharma said the government had initiated recovery action against nine mills which owed Rs 18.2 crore till July. But these did not include mills owned by politicians.

“We did not take further action as the Centre announced a soft loan for sugar mills to help them pay their dues,” he said.

From the Rs 6,000 crore interest-free loan kitty announced by the Centre, the state’s mills are expected to get Rs 2,000 crore, Sharma informed.

Sources said even those factories that were in a position to pay their dues chose to wait for the soft loan.

Farmer leader Raju Shetti, who is also a Swabhimani Paksha Party MP in the Lok Sabha, said political parties were silent on the subject because their leaders are mill-owners too.

State education and cultural affairs minister Tawde, whose mill has an outstanding of Rs 16.11 crore, said he was not involved in day-to-day affairs of the mill.

Former chief minister Chavan, whose four mills have run arrears to the tune of Rs 91 crore, said his mills could not pay because sugar prices dropped more than Rs 1,000 a quintal in a single year.

“We have been paying the FRP all this while but this is a typical year. We can’t pay for the raw material more than we earn from market for the finished product.”

Chavan and other politicians blamed the government’s formula for calculating the FRP.

“The FRP was decided last year by taking into account sugar prices of the time, which was Rs 3,200 a quintal. Today, it has come down to Rs 1,900. After paying the FRP, the mills have to bear a loss of Rs 1,300 a quintal,” said NCP MLA Babanrao Shinde, whose three mills owed Rs 73 crore.

Party colleague Jayant Patil, a former rural development minister whose mills have Rs 86 core in dues, suggested farmers should grow less to prevent losses. “If the prices are kept high in the interest of farmers, the gap in the current sugar price and the price taken into account at the time of calculation of FRP should be compensated by the government through subsidy,” he said.

Ajit Pawar, whose relatives and associates control mills that have Rs 139.75 crore in dues, suggested a government subsidy along with the soft loan.

Legislator Amit Deshmukh, son of the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, said his four mills “have paid the FRP”.

Data show the mills owed Rs 21.12 crore till August 31. “Where there (FRP) are still pending they are due to government clarity on FRP rules on certain exceptional cases,” he wrote in an email.

His uncle and former state minister of finance, Diliprao Deshmukh, said an outstanding amount of Rs 10.99 crore was cleared last week. “We had the funds but we were waiting for the soft loan to get sanctioned. If there is a scheme, one should take it.”

State rural development minister Munde, Dileep Walse Patil of NCP, NCP MP Dhananjay Mahadik, NCP MLA Balasaheb Patil, Congress MLA Basavraj Patil, SHS MLA Chandradeep Narake, BJP’s Babanrao Pachpute and Congress’s Prakash Awade said they have either cleared their dues or were in the process of clearing them.

Other politicians did not respond to calls, text messages and emails or refused comment.

Who owes how much

* Pankaja Munde, BJP, state rural development minister

Amount due: Rs 27.53 crore

Comment: We will be clearing the dues by September 30 from the soft loan sanctioned by the government.

* Ajit Pawar, NCP, MLA and former deputy chief minister

Amount due: Rs 139.75 crore

Comment: Along with the soft loan, the government should provide subsidy to mills to clear dues.

* Chhagan Bhujbal, NCP, MLA and former PWD minister

Amount due: Rs 8.16 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls, SMS and emails

* Vinod Tawde, BJP, education and cultural affairs minister

Amount due: Rs 16.11 crore

Comment: I am not involved in day-to-day affairs of the mill.

* Ashok Chavan, Congress, former CM

Amount due: Rs 91.03 crore

Comment: FRP should be linked to current sugar prices.

* Amit Deshmukh, Congress, MLA

Amount due: Rs 21.12 crore

Comment: We have paid the dues. Where there (FRP) are still pending they are due to government clarity on FRP rules on certain exceptional cases.

* Patangrao Kadam, Congress, MLA and former forest minister

Amount due: Rs 32.44 crore

Comment: Some FRP payment is pending but we will pay at the rate of Rs 2,100 and Rs 2,200 for a tonne of sugarcane.

* Jayant Patil, NCP, MLA and former rural development and finance minister

Amount due: Rs 86.08 crore

Comment: The gap in the FRP and current sugar prices should be compensated by the government. Farmers should grow less to prevent losses.

* Dileep Walse Patil, NCP, MLA and former assembly speaker

Amount due: Rs 28.11 crore

Comment: We will clear the dues by this month-end with the soft loan from the government.

* Diliprao Deshmukh, Congress, MLC and former minister of state for finance and planning

Amount due: Rs 10.99 crore

Comment: We had the funds but were waiting for the soft loan to get sanctioned. We have cleared the dues last week.

* Vijaysingh Mohite Patil , NCP, MP and former deputy CM

Amount due: Rs 104.66 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMSes

* Babanrao Shinde, NCP, MLA

Amount due: Rs 73.06 crore

Comment: The FRP was decided by taking into account last year’s sugar price of Rs 3,200 a quintal which has now come down to Rs 1,900.

* Shubhash S Deshmukh, BJP, MLA

Amount due: Rs 60.94 crore

Comment: We will have to return the loan money. Liability on the mills is increasing. They will shut down.

* Siddharam Mhetre, Congress, MLA and former rural development minister

Amount due: Rs 20.32 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMS

* Dhananjay Mahadik, NCP, MP

Amount due: Rs 26.2 crore

Comment: “We will clear the dues by Diwali”

* Babanrao Pachpute, BJP, former Minister of forest

Amount due: Rs 37.64 crore

Comment: “Soft loan is causing the delay. By Sep 30 we will pay the dues.”

* Chandradeep Shashikant Narake, SHS, MLA

Amount due: Rs 14.98 crore

Comment: “We cleared the dues with the soft loan last week.”

* Prakash Awade, Congress, Former Textile Minister

Amount due: Rs 57.23 crore

Comment: “Cleared the dues few days back after the soft loan was sanctioned”

* Balasaheb P Patil, NCP, MLA

Amount due: Rs 28.18 crore

Comment: “Now that the soft loan has been sanctioned, we will clear the dues”

* Jayprakash Dandegaokar, NCP, Former minister of Cooperative

Amount due: Rs 22.34 crore

Comment: “We couldn’t pay at this rate of FRP. The raw material cost is more than the value of the finished product”

* Haribhau M Jawale, BJP, MLA

Amount due: Rs 17.27 crore

Comment: “The prices of sugar came down by Rs 1200 in one year. It was not possible to pay FRP”

* Basavaraj Madhavrao Patil, Congress, MLA

Amount due: Rs 14.05 crore

Comment: “Will make the payment with the loan money”

* Sanjay Ramchandra Patil, BJP, MP

Amount due: Rs 11.9 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls, SMS and email

* Harshvardhan Patil, Congress, former cooperation minister

Amount due: Rs 87.43 crore

Comment: Did not respond to queries over phone

* Fauzia Khan, Congress, Former Minister of State of women and child development

Amount due: Rs 2.2 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls, SMS and email

* Rahul Subhashrao Kul, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, MLA,

Amount due: Rs 48.78 crore

Comment: “For us raw material has become expensive than the product. FRP should be linked to sugarcane price.”

* Sangram Anantrao Thopte, Congress, MLA

Amount due: Rs 8.43 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMS

* Rahul Kudalikrao Jagtap, NCP, MLA

Amount due: Rs 4.48 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMS

* Balasaheb Thorat, Congress MLA, Fomer revenue minister

Amount due: Rs 23.67 crore

Comment: Did not respond to emails

* Pruthviraj Deshmukh, BJP, Former MLA

Amount due: Rs 11.56

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMS

* Bharat Tukram Bhalke, Congress, MLA

Amount due: Rs 49.95 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMS

* Babasaheb Patil, NCP, Former MLA,

Amount due: Rs 22.99

Comment: Refused to comment on the dues.

Sandipan Bhumre, SHS, MLA

Amount due: Rs 1.78 crore

Comment: Did not respond to calls and SMS

* Gangadhar Kunturkar, Former Congress MLA

Amount due: Rs 0.98 crore

Comment: Did not respond to email

Source: Sugar Commissioner of Maharashtra, Maharashtra Rajya Sahkari Sakhar Karkhana Sangh, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, election affidavits of the candidates, Sugar companies’ websites, State government departments’ websites.