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Maharashtra: Investigate sale of sugar mills, demands BJP

The BJP on Saturday demanded a probe into the sale of all sugar mills. Party state president Chandrakant Patil said, “The BJP is not in favour of targeting any individual party or leader. But it believes that any deal that is illegal should be subjected to investigation.”

Party insiders said BJP’s strategy is to turn to the cooperative sector, especially sugar mills, to target its political rivals Congress and NCP. A party leader said, “The cooperative sector is the backbone of Congress and NCP politics. It not only helps them economically but also is resourceful in building a huge network of committed manpower, which translates into electoral gains at times of polls.”

Earlier this week, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, had led a delegation of sugar mill owners from BJP to discuss reforms in the sector with Union Minister for Home and Cooperation Amit Shah in Delhi.

BJP is protesting against the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s proposal to allow sugar mills to make fair and remunerative price (FRP) payment in three instalments. As per current norms, sugar mills have to pay farmers a one-time payment within 14 days after procuring cane.

“We are opposed to the three-time instalment payment plan, as it adversely affects the farmers. Farmers should get their dues within a certain time frame once their cane is procured by mills for processing,” said Fadnavis.

“Congress and NCP had made the rule of a one-time payment to farmers. This was accepted by the Centre. Now, the MVA govt is pushing for amendments in the current rules to allow payment to farmers in three instalments. This will not serve the farmers,” he added.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti said, “Both the Centre and state have failed the farmers. Both are worried about their vested political and economic interests.”

“When a group of sugar mill owners, both cooperative and private, approached the Centre requesting for relaxation in FRP norms to facilitate three-instalment payment, it did not reject the proposal. A Niti Ayog report has also suggested payment of FRP in three instalments within six months. Now, the MVA govt is citing the recommendations of that report. We have already launched a campaign against this payment model…,” he added.

Shetti claimed that a recent crackdown by central agencies against sugar mills was being used by BJP against Congress and NCP. “If BJP is so concerned about farmers’ welfare, why is the action confined to Congress and NCP-owned sugar mills? Why are central agencies not investigating BJP-owned sugar mills?”

Patil, however, dismissed these charges as baseless. “The Jarandeshwar sugar mill case is of money laundering and the Enforcement Directorate is currently probing the matter. If other sugar mills have similar money laundering cases against them, they must also be investigated.”

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