Unpaid dues touch `7.82 cr, Dhuri sugar mill will be auctioned on September 14

Unable to pay the unpaid dues of Rs 7.82 crore to the farmers despite repeated notices, the Punjab government decided to auction Bhagwanpura Sugar mill private limited located in Dhuri on September 14.

Associate-cum-tehsildar collector Kuldeep Singh pasted a notice, dated September 8, on the walls of the mill. The order also mentions that in a letter dated July 15, 2022, Dhuri SDM had agreed to seize the property of the sugar factory, which has around 250 employees.

The auction will be conducted in accordance with Clause 75 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act, the order says. The order further stated that a total of Rs 13.78 crore was outstanding against the factory and was to be paid to the farmers for their crop of sugar cane supplied to this factory. However, the Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director had repeatedly requested payment extensions and till date, Rs 7.82 crore is unpaid.

Avtar Singh Tari, a farmer from Bhullar Kheri village and committee member of Ganna Sanghrash, Dhuri, cultivates sugarcane on about 3.5 acres and welcomed the decision to auction the mill.

“We had organized several dharnas in the past, finally after the auction the farmers will get their due. Around 500 farmers from Sangrur, Malerkotla, Barnala and even Haryana have dues pending against this mill. A total of 5,000 acres of sugarcane crop grown in and around this area arrives at the factory,” he said.

Sarabjeet Singh, another farmer from Dhuri and also a member of the committee, said: “We want the government to keep in mind that the mill must be in the hands of someone who can run it, if not 5,000 acres sugar cane harvest will be another headache. . There will be no place to take them.

Avtar added that the last owner took over the sugar factory in 2005 and the problems started from 2012-13. “Dharnas had become a standard outside the factory on a regular basis. We held day-night dharnas in 2017, in the Assembly polls of 2022. In the indirect vote of Sangrur, we had gherao several times at the SDM office,” he said.

Out of Rs 7.82 crore, nearly Rs 55 lakh belongs to farmers in Haryana. Majority of the pending amount is for the 2021-22 sugarcane season, while some farmers in Haryana are to take their pending amount from the 2020-21 season.

Avtar added that previously they farmed sugar cane on 21,000 acres and now it is reduced to 5,000 acres.

Earlier, in 2019, a similar auction notice was issued by the then Congress government against the factory, however, the factory cleared the dues and it was not auctioned.

Sugar cane growers said CM Bhagwant Mann had promised them they would get dues cleared by September 7.

However, this only happened in the case of cooperative sugar factories, and private sugar factories did not show up. The Indian Express tried to contact Jaipal Thakur, managing director of the sugar factory, but he could not be reached.

Rachel J. Bradford