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Cane growers’ dues touch Rs 102 cr, to explore legal options

MANDYA

Frustrated over sugar factories not paying pending dues for supply of sugarcane, farmers in south Karnataka’s ‘sugar bowl’ Mandya have decided to explore legal options, including filing police complaints, against two private sugar mills.

The four sugar mills that are functioning in the district owe farmers ₹102.35 crore. The dues have not been cleared though dozens of agitations have been staged and memoranda submitted for several months now.

A total of 100 growers had recently approached the police with individual complaints against NSL Sugars and Chamundeswari Sugar mills. However, senior police officials intervened and assured the farmers of getting their dues before Monday, Ningappaji, treasurer, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) said.

“Both the mills have failed to pay. We will file complaints seeking action against the defaulters,” Annur Mahendra, district vice-president, KRRS, said. The KRRS has decided to intensify agitation besides launching legal battles, said Shambhunahalli Suresh, district president of KRRS.

According to data accessed from highly-placed sources in the district administration, the four operating mills had procured sugarcane worth Rs 573.06 crore from the growers during the crushing season of 2018-19. However, only Rs 470.71 crore was paid till April 22.

The State-owned Mysore Sugar Company Ltd. (Mysugar) mill has to clear Rs 18 lakh. The NSL Sugars Ltd. (NSL) at Koppa near Maddur has not cleared Rs 46.25 crore. The dues by Coromandel Sugars Ltd. at Makavalli near Krishnaraja Pet and Chamundeswari Sugars near Kala Muddana Doddi are Rs 2.89 crore and Rs 53.03 crore respectively (till April 22, 2019).

The mills had entered in to agreements with canegrowers to crush 26 lakh tonne of their produces in 2018-19. Nonetheless, they crushed 21.93 lakh tonne, senior officials at the district administration said.

The Fair and Remunerative Price for crushed cane was fixed at ₹2,612.5 a tonne. The mills are liable to pay the price within 14 days of procurement of the produce, according to the Karnataka Sugarcane (Regulation of Purchase and Supply) Act 2013. The Act also states that the defaulting mills should pay dues at 15% interest rate or face punishment if the stipulated conditions are violated, the officials said.

A senior officer said, “The defaulting mills have sugar stock of 13.92 lakh quintal. We have issued notices to the managements/officials concerned. We can seize and auction the stock, after obtaining permissions from authorities, to clear the dues.”

Surprisingly, the issue did not gain importance during the election campaign. The Mandya Lok Sabha constituency had witnessed a month-long high voltage electioneering following a fierce battle between Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son K Nikhil and Sumalatha.

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