Cornered Akhilesh govt trains guns on mills, files FIRs against sugar honchos

Written by Deepa Jainani | Lucknow | Updated: Nov 30 2013, 05:32am hrs
The cane war has turned from bad to worse in UP. A day after a farmer in Lakhimpur committed suicide over heavy debts, triggering protests, a cornered UP government turned the heat on private sugar mills of the state to defuse the tension.

The state government on Friday registered serious charges of cheating and fraud against major promoters and employees of the sugar mills, including some of the top industrialists of the country such as Bajaj Hindhustan's CMD Kushagra Bajaj, Balrampur Chini's CMD Vivek Saraogi, Triveni Engineering's vice chairman Tarun Sawhney, Dhampur Sugar MD Gautam Goel, deputy MD DCM Shriram Consolidated Ajit Shriram, hours after it announced fresh dates for the sugar mills in the state to start crushing.

The FIRs, which call for non-bailable arrest warrants, have been booked under sections 408, 409, 418, 420, 465, 467, 468 plus 3/7 of the Essential Commodity Act 1955. Not only that, Kushagra Bajaj has also been booked for conspiracy under section 120 B of the IPC, which implies criminal conspiracy.

So far, 10 FIRs have been lodged against the sugar mills, which includes three on Bajaj Hindusthan, one on Balrampur Chini, one on Dhampur Sugars, one on Uttam Sugars, one on Triveni Engineering, one on Mawana Sugars and one on Phenil Sugars.

Apart from the owners, FIRs have also been lodged against the unit and cane heads of all these factories. There were also reports of alleged sealing of three sugar godowns of Balrampur Chini.

The industry slammed the government for the move. "On one hand, the government is talking to us and has given us time to start the mills, on the other hand, it has started a witch-hunt against some of the top industrialists of the country. This clearly shows the government is not looking for solutions. We have time till December 4. Let us try and work out a solution instead of employing arm-twisting tactics," said a miller.

"If the government thinks that it can bulldoze us into submission, we are sorry, it can try as many measures as it wants. If arresting top industrialists can help in getting the mills started, let them try that also," said another miller.

However, speaking to FE, an official of the state government said there was no option but to crack down on the erring mills. We cannot allow millers to play havoc with the lives of millions of poor farmers. If they do not want to crush, they can state so two years in advance so that farmers can sow cane. But saying that they would not run the mills when the farmers are ready with the cane crop will not be allowed. We are a welfare state and the government cannot be a mute spectator to the exploitation of millions of farmers, he said, adding that the sovereign power of the state shall be put in force, if the need arose.

Meanwhile, the government claimed that as many as 30 sugar factories have started crushing in the state.