19 January 2021, New Delhi, IN: Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad has penalised 11 sugar mills in the state for starting operations without obtaining crushing licence. Senior officers of the commissionerate said the list included mills run by senior NCP and BJP leaders in Pune and Satara districts. Together, the mills have attracted a fine of Rs 41. 52 crore.
Unlike neighbouring Karnataka, sugar mills in Maharashtra are not allowed to start operations before the beginning date of the crushing season as declared by the state government. Mills have to apply and get a crushing licence from the office of the sugar commissioner. Without this, they are liable to paying a steep fine. The commissioner can levy fine up to Rs 500 per tonne of cane crushed.
Most mills facing penalty are in western Maharashtra and controlled by senior NCP and BJP leaders. The mills, it is expected, would apply for a stay against the action before state Cooperative Minister Balasaheb Patil.
Four months into the sugarcane crushing season of 2020-21, unpaid cane dues in the state has crossed Rs 2,140 crore as mills continue to default in payment to farmers. Till December 31, mills purchased 323.88 lakh tonne cane for which they paid farmers Rs 6,795.13 crore at government-declared fair and remunerative price (FRP) of Rs 2,850 per tonne. Mills, however, have paid Rs 4,657.84 crore, running up arrears of Rs 2,140.07 crore.
Out of 178 mills operational now, 68 have cleared all dues while the rest have run up arrears. Gaikwad, while speaking to The Indian Express, said they will start serving notices to sugar mills that have defaulted on payment.
“Once the notices are issued, we will take up the next action, which would be to confiscate their properties to get dues cleared,” he said.