For the past three years Mangesh Titkare, joint director (administration) with the Sugar Commissioner’s office in Pune, had been sweating it hard on a project in between his full-time job to research the growth of the sugar industry in India.
After strenuous hard work and dedication, Titkare, along with former sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad, came up with a book ‘Ikshudand te Ethanol’ (From Cane to Ethanol), that documents the details pertaining to the evolution of the industry since the prehistoric times.
“Maharashtra’s growth is intrinsically linked with the sugar industry. Until a few years ago, the state was the largest producer of the sweetener. Sugar mills in the state have a strong social angle as well. Our idea was to document this in its full,” he said.
NCP veteran Sharad Pawar, who released the book in September, lauded the writers for the in-depth information in the book. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has also recently cited the book as a must-read for those associated with the sugar industry.
“While the industry has had its share of academic research, a full-fledged documentation which would include all aspects like history, agronomy, technical details was lacking,” Titkare added.
Shekhar Gaikwad said the idea about the book came when they were discussing the construction of a Sugar Museum in Pune. “Sugar is the strength of India and Maharashtra but it was not documented well. The book project was undertaken so that when the museum is built it would be easy to conceptualise,” he added.
Collecting information was not an easy job for the authors as most information was present in bits and pieces.
The growth of the sugar industry in Maharashtra was in phases and was linked to the cooperatives which were honed and perfected by the leaders. However, many of the mills did not maintain their documents well.
“Thus, when we were looking for a picture of the first crushing season of Hutatma Jayvantrao Patil Cooperative Mill in Nanded we found out that it was located in the house of an old shareholder in the area. The mill itself did not have the picture,” Titkare said.
A botanist by initial training, Titkare has the habit of collecting newspaper articles related to the sugar industry. Once the project was conceptualised, he took to hunting for details from old libraries, bookshops and other places.
“Information came from many places. Once I stumbled upon a news item of Chinese sugar traders starting their trade in West Bengal. Further studies about the matter led me to a whole document which had recorded this,” he said. The ‘Peshwai daftar’ in the Archives also helped the writers to get details about sugar and sugar prices during that time.
Apart from historical details, the book sheds light on other information and advancements made in the sugarcane sector.