BHOPAL: Hundreds of farmers in Morena district have joined hands to revive one of the oldest cooperative sugar factories in the region that was closed almost a decade ago.
The move comes when a section of state bureaucracy is gunning to dismantle and sell the factory’s metal as junk. chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is also learnt to have expressed his willingness to the revive the unit.
A tender for ‘Sale of Plant and Machinery of Cooperation Department Sugar Mill’ at Kailaras in Morena was floated by the Public Asset Management Department (PAM) in January this year, notwithstanding pleas of the local farmers and political leaders who claimed the livelihood of 5000 to 10000 farmers and their families depended on it. Farmers have even expressed their willingness to write off the dues on the factory if there is a revival plan.
Also known as ‘Morena Mandal Sahkari Shakkar Karkhana Ltd’, this factory was established in 1973.
Chief minister Shivraj Sing Chouhan has reportedly agreed to give a chance for revival of this factory, said sources. He has asked the tender process to be put on halt. Cooperatives minister Arvind Bhadoria, fisheries minister Tulsi Silawat and PWD minister Gopal Bhargav too have supported the move.
In 2019, Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia – who was AICC general secretary then – had written to the then chief minister Kamal Nath to reopen the sugar factory that was closed down in the BJP regime. This factory, he said, was established for sugarcane-growing farmers in the Gwalior-Chambal region and it had become a lifeline for farmers in Morena and adjoining areas, Scindia had said in the letter.
Scindia had suggested to the then state government that it can give a grant to the sugar mill management to clear its outstanding dues (around Rs 29 crore at that time) and later on it can run either in public-private partnership mode or as a cooperative as earlier.
Spearheading the revival plan of this mill currently is 72-year-old M D Parashar – former chief general manager of the sugar factory. “Kailaras sugar mill was not only the lifeline for sugarcane-growing farmers of Kailaras, Joura and Morena but also assumes importance for farmers from Gwalior, Datia and Bhind districts since Dabra sugar mill was shut,” Parashar told TOI. Kailaras sugar mill was shut down in 2008-09 by the government citing revenue loss.
Parashar had mooted the proposal of the factory’s revival. It has been forwarded to the MSME department by the office of chief minister.
National federation of cooperative sugar factories has also shown its interest in its revival keeping in view the GoI’s new ethanol policy. In a letter to Parashar, the federation suggested three options for revival— conversion of cane juice to ethanol, conversion of cane juice and sugar, conversion of local grain-based ethanol plants. The federation has also assured all support to start this factory again.
Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar had also promised to start the Kailaras sugar mill. Many believe that a conspiracy is being hatched to sell the previous 200 bighas of land on which sugarcane mill is situated. Plant and residential premises were established on 40 bighas only. Around 160 bighas of land has been given on contract farming. The income is used to meet wages of the factory’s security guards.
Kailaras Sugar Mills has a liability of over Rs 35 crore, which the factory’s former officers say is unjustified. The dues include salary of more than 520 employees, Rs 20 crore of Provident Fund, around Rs 5 crore to the farmers and Mandi Board, Rs 3 crore to the state government, Central Co-operative Banks and other private institutions and bank loans.
The base price of the so-called junk of the factory was fixed at Rs 2.78 crore. A former principal secretary of the cooperatives department had written a letter to the then Chambal Divisional commissioner, asking him to publish a notice of Expression of Interest, for operating Kailaras Mill on PPP model, but nothing happened. Land mafias were said to be behind scuttling any such proposals.