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As Karnataka Readies to Announce Farm Loan Waiver, Data Shows Mill Owners as Real Villains

At least 41 of the 65 sugar mills operational in the state have defaulted on money they have to pay to the sugarcane farmers.

Stacy Pereira | CNN-News18

Updated:July 4, 2018, 12:08 PM IST
Bengaluru: Even as the HD Kumaraswamy government gets set to announce its big fat farm loan waiver for farmers in distress across Karnataka, new data shows that it is the sugar mill owners - many of whom are politicians - that are causing the farmers the actual distress.

Data from the Commissioner for Cane Development and Director of Sugar, Karnataka, shows that for the season starting 1/07/2017 till 30/06/2018 mill owners owe Rs 1118.26 crore to sugarcane farmers across the state.

It is no surprise, that most of the sugar mill owners - besides those run by co-operatives - are either run by politicians, from the ruling Congress or the opposition BJP. What’s worse, at least 41 of the 65 sugar mills operational in the state have defaulted on money they have to pay to the sugarcane farmers.

Among the defaulters that owe the most, late Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda from Jamakhandi and the owner of Jamakhandi Sugars owes Rs 96.82 to farmers who supplied to his Bagalkote unit and another Rs 81.22 cr for its Vijaypura Unit.

Former AICC secretary Satish Jharkiholi's Satish Sugars owes Rs 51.43 cr whereas senior Congress leader Shamanur Shivshankarappa's sons India Cane Power ltd, Bagalkote, has made only 74% of its payments with a balance Rs 50.14 cr pending.

BJP's Bilgi MLA Murugesh Nirani is no different. The two sugar mills owned by him, have pending dues of over Rs 30 crore. While one of the biggest defaulters is a co-operative based out of Kalaburgi - Sahakari Sakkare Kharkane in Aland - this particular mill too was leased out to NSL Sugars.

The newly appointed Industries minister, KJ George may not be aware that it is his colleagues that have defaulted, he however, played down the issue saying he had conducted a review meeting with all district deputy commissioners on June 27 and had taken stock of the situation.

"I am told about Rs 1600 cr in dues are still pending, but many are waiting to avail benefits from various Centre provided schemes, I have asked the concern authorities to expedite the process, soon they will be paid", KJ George assured.

However, Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers' Association President Kurubur Shanthakumar has little faith in the minister’s assurance.

"Farmers have been waiting since February end, for some that's when the crushing season ends, but many mill owners like the Jarkoholi family who own four mills, have dues that run into hundreds of crores. Loan waiver is one relief, why isn't the government questioning their own leaders instead" he asks.

Interestingly, Karnataka, the third-largest sugarcane producer, is better off compared to its peers - Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Both these BJP- led states have already announced crop loan waivers to help out their farmers in the last year but still have the maximum defaults.

Uttar Pradesh's sugar industries owe its farmers more than Rs 4,500 crore, while Maharashtra's sugar barons owe its farmers more than Rs 2,400 crore in arrears till May 2018.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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