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Press Release- Thousands of Mahrashtra farmers, workers ‘Cry Halt!’ for sale of sugar co-operatives

NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS

National Office : 6/6 Jangpura B, New Delhi – 110 014 . Phone : 011 2437 4535

Ø Anna Hazare, MedhaPatkar and others pledge to save

        co-operatives

Ø After 9th October Mass Rally, ‘Jail Bharo’ if no response in 1 month

One of the biggest scams discovered in by the and workers is that of the sale of the co-operative sugar factories purchased by the political leaders across parties. It has involved not only present ministers and former chief ministers but also opposition leaders. It has been a story of the open transfer of public property to private pockets, at a minimal, unjustifiable price, amounting to daylight robbery and loot. The minimum value involved is not less than Rs 10,000 crores.

At the mass rally organized on 9th October at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, by All-India Sugar Factories Workers’ Federation and National Alliance of People’s Movements, and supported by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Kisan Sabha, various local sugar co-operative organizations were addressed by , MedhaPatkar, Raju Shetty (Member of Parliament), Manikrao Jadhav, Manohar Patwari (both former MLAs), and Babanrao Pawar (leader of Workers’ Federation), along with others. A delegation met the Chief Minister and demandedcomplete halt to sale of sugar co-operatives, no leasing out of co-operative factories, reversal of fraudulent auction and sale, and full-fledged comprehensive judicial enquiry into the sale till date, leading to punishing the culprits.

Why were Tuteja Committee recommendations, made in 2005 and accepted then, not implemented, they asked the Chief Minister, and demanded that the Government of Maharashtra immediately send a proposal to the Centre and request use of Sugar Development Fund, amounting to over Rs 5000 crores, lying with the Food and Civil Supplies Department (UoI) for repayment of debts and recovery by the co-operatives. Anna Hazare, and others have warned the Chief Minister and declared that if no concrete step is taken by the State within a month, Jail Bharo Andolan will start across Maharashtra. ‘Sahakar Bachao, Desh Bachao’ was the slogan, as the movement is not only to focus on sugar co-operatives, but also to demand enquiry into sold out, indebted and sick co-operatives in dairy and textiles; fraud and manipulation to kill housing co-operatives and effect change in policy and law to protect and facilitate ‘co-operation’, not politician-builders or politician-corporates.

A story that began to be unveiled from one factory to another led to a struggle in the case of some. The Girna Sugar Co-operative in Malegaon (district Nasik)got auctioned and sold to Armstrong Infrastructure Private Limited in 2010 without consulting members and shareholders, and paying the dues amounting to a few hundred crores, to the farmers and workers. The overall property of the factory, having included about 300 acres of land, an old, strong godown building, a one-storey office building, workers’ quarters, expensive machinery, etc., having a market value of Rs 300 to 400 crores, was ‘auctioned’ out fraudulently, and sold for a mere Rs 27 crores to a company with the son and nephew of Mr ChhaganlalBhujbal, PWD Minister in the present cabinet, as Directors of ‘Armstrong’ (literal translation of ‘Bhujbal’). It has now been exposed that the same has happened in at least 35 or more factories across the state. While 60 others were on their way, a hue and cry was raised by workers in Sholapur, Latur (in Kannad and Paithan), Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Nasik and various other districts by ManikraoJadhav, ManoharPatwari and others. The workers and farmers who had given their lands with consent at minimal price took to a struggle with padayatras, rallies, and court cases from 2010 till date, and have now reached the apex court.

Today it is known that the co-operatives, which were once the centres of political activity and sources of support for the upward mobility of many a politician, were used and thrown by them. After having amassed unjustifiable amounts of loans from various co-operative and other banks, such as Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank, IDBI, IFCI, ICICI, etc., and the comforts to luxuries they could enjoy, indebtedness was inevitable. The same was again used by the same leaders to their benefit, resorting to the Bank’s confiscation of property followed by auction, to purchase the invaluable property themselves for a throwaway price, thereby making a huge profit. The auction process too was fraudulent as the leaders ensured there was no transparency, nor accountability, and others were either stopped from entering the same or bullied down. The nexus of politicians in co-operatives, banks and ministries or parties operated to draw all benefits and manoeuvre all decisions, now stands fully exposed.

‘Co-operation’ as an economic route, with the potential to counter Statist and Corporate paradigmsand take democratic alternatives ahead, is under attack. The reflection of global capitalism in our policies and processes in the country is demonstrated here by the vulgar moves by fearless politicians who are themselves eating into the flesh and blood of people’s democracy and public property, both. The movement is committed to stop and reverse this.

The decision by the Maharasthra cabinet on September 3rd, 2013 was to stop further sale but not leasing or renting out of sugar co-operatives, even on a long term basis. The movement opposes this… It is obvious that the leaders of the parties in power, NCP and Congress, Ajit Pawar, Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh and his son, Amit Deshmukh, Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayantrao Patil, Ranjit Deshmukh, Fauzia Khan, are among those directly or indirectly (through their relatives to cadre-workers) involved, the investigation reveals. NitinGadkari and Eknath Khadse are also involved in purchase and Gopinath Munde in leasing out of co-operatives, resulting in tacit support by the opposition. It is an open secret and the talk of the district as to how these leaders have managed to amass wealth, especially huge chunks of land, and political power, both by killing the well-known co-operative sector in the ‘progressive’ state. It is also not shocking that many of the same factories declared sick and in debt, are run in profit, even with increasing capacity as in the case of the Kannad co-operative that is making huge profit after having closed and sold the co-operative, kicking out about 800 workers and avoiding Rs 53 crores of payment.

All this is a scandal of huge proportion and serious implications, and hence, the movement. NAPM is committed to take up the challenge not only to get the matter investigated, but also to get a Tribunal set up for enquiry as well as criminal action against the heinous crime committed at the cost of life and livelihood of thousands of farmers, workers and rights of common citizens.

We appeal to all conscious citizens and those fighting corruption and supporting co-operation to join us in our upcoming programs, to carry out and support research and investigation, offer financial support and raise the issue to all means and media.

 

 

Contact: Seela Manaswinee               Suniti S.R                 Dr Sugan Baranth

09212587159 / 09423965153               09423571784                   0942225279

 

 

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