A sugar mill in Maharashtra’s Satara district, which is facing action from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged financial irregularities, has clocked the season’s second-highest sugarcane crushing.
At the start of the 2021-22 sugarcane crushing season, Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills Limited had faced action from the ED which had provincially attached its property. The action by the central agency was allegedly due to financial irregularities in the manner the erstwhile cooperative mill was sold to a private party by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank.
In July last year, the central agency had taken action against the mill implicating the family of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar for his alleged role in the undervalued sale of the mill. Ajit Pawar had denied the allegations and pointed out how all rules were followed during the auction of the mill.
Founded in 2003 by former state minister Shalini Patil, the cooperative mill had come into trouble soon afterwards as bank and farmer dues started rising. The mill was put up for auction by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank and was subsequently purchased by a private party.
Following the action by the ED, the Income Tax department had also taken action. The steps taken by the central agencies had seen farmers getting worried about the fate of their cane. Three cooperative mills had also failed to raise enough capital to start their season.
As the season progressed, the sugar commissioner’s office had issued a crushing license to Jarandeshwar Mill after it had fulfilled all the conditions laid by it. During the 2020-21 season, Jarandeshwar had reported crushing 14.38 lakh tonnes of cane and paid farmers Rs 420.67 crore as the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) to its growers.
At the end of the 2021-22 cane crushing season, Jarandeshwar has reported crushing 19.98 lakh tonne of cane. This was the second-highest cane crushed by a single mill this season after the 24.78 lakh tonne by the Vitthalrao Shinde Cooperative Sugar Mill in the Madha taluka of Solapur. In terms of sugar produced, Jarandeshwar had produced 2.25 lakh tonne of the sweetener—the third highest in the state. The mill to date has paid Rs 531.79 crore to its growers as against the Rs 525.05 crore it had to pay.
For the growers in Satara, especially those in the Wai, Khandala, Satara, and Karad talukas, Jarandeshwar had come to the rescue as three cooperative mills which normally procure cane in these areas had remained shut. As the season progressed and the problem of standing cane became serious, sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad had managed the distribution of cane to mills to ensure farmers are not faced with non-harvested cane.