UP lodges FIRs against sugar mill owners over irregularities

Written by Deepa Jainani | Lucknow | Updated: Nov 29 2011, 08:34am hrs
Uttar Pradesh government has filed FIRs which call for non-bailable arrest warrants against 12 sugar factories, their owners, including top industrialists Bajaj Hindhusthan Groups Kushagra Bajaj (CMD) and Shishir Bajaj (MD), Vivek Saraogi, CMD of Balrampur Chini, Dhruv Mohan Sawhney, MD of the Triveni Group, RK Morarka, MD of Dwarikesh Group and several senior officials for alleged irregularities and malpractices in the weighment of cane in their respective mills.

According to highly placed officials in the state government, the process of filing FIRs is for violation of the Essential Commodities Act. The warrants against the top officials of the companies have been used after widespread complaints of mass underweighment of sugarcane by the mills. We have a continuous process of inspection to check any sort of discrepancy or irregularity on the part of the millers to make profits. We have strict orders from the government to crack down on under-weighment of cane and under capacity utilisation of the crushing capacity, said a cane department official on the condition of anonymity.

While most of the mill owners refused to comment on the reasons behind this widespread move, others said they were clueless as to why the state government was targeting the industry. "This has become a yearly exercise in Uttar Pradesh. As industrialists, we are somehow made to feel that are doing something wrong and hence such severe action is being taken against us. But the most tragic part is that we do not even know what is the reason of our plight. We are silent sufferers every year, he said.

Yet another miller expressed surprise as to how under-weighment of cane can be carried out on such a mass scale every year, despite the fact that the process of cane crushing in every district in done under the watch of the state government machinery. Every year, this exercise is undertaken by the state government in which our sugar mills are raided by officials of the cane department and FIRs are lodged against owners and occupiers of the mills. But we fail to understand how irregularities can be perpetuated by the industry on such a mass scale every year, he said on the condition of anonymity, adding that while some mills may be under-weighing cane, it is not possible that it is being done on such a large scale all across the state.

In fact, another point that the millers are raising is that even if cases of irregularities have been found, they are being carried out by local officials and weighment clerks of the sugar factories and this is not the handiwork of senior officials of the sugar mills. Issuing non-bailable arrest warrants against the owners of the companies and their top management and treating them like petty criminals shows high-handedness on the part of the government. It is not the job of senior officials to indulge in acts which can call for invoking the draconian Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act, said another sugar miller on the condition of anonymity.

Stating the fact that the government is using strong-arm tactics on them, another miller said that with such pressure tactics, it would be difficult for the industry to survive in Uttar Pradesh.