One-upmanship has spelt disaster for Rampur unit

Though the major players in the U.P. electoral arena are not fighting shy of boasting of development and job creation, the Rampur Sugar Mill is a classic example of how political rivalry and one-upmanship spelt the doom for a factory and its workforce.

The unit, belonging to Uttar Pradesh Rajya Chinni Evam Ganna Vikas Nigam Limited, a subsidiary of Uttar Pradesh Sugar Corporation Limited, has been lying closed since 1999.

The mill, with an installed capacity of 2200 TCD (tonnes of sugarcane crushed per day), was restarted for a day on a trial basis in the 2004-05 sugar season before it relapsed into stupor. About a couple of years ago, the Mayawati government finalised a proposal to sell the factory to a private player.

The factory, located on the Rampur-Udham Singh Nagar road, is very much an issue in the March 3 election here, at least for Samajwadi Party candidate and sitting MLA Mohammad Azam Khan and his bete noire, the former Congress MLA Afroz Ali Khan, whose wife Reshma Afroz is in the fray on Rashtriya Lok Manch ticket.

Ms. Afroz is being backed by Jayaprada, MP, who, though technically still in the SP, is campaigning against Mr. Azam Khan. In fact, restarting the sugar factory was one of her poll promises when she was elected MP from Rampur in 2004. She was then fully supported in her endeavour by Mr. Khan, who was Urban Development Minister in the Mulayam Singh government.

Thereafter, relations between the two began to sour and in 2009 the split was wide open.

‘A sham exercise'

In an attempt to settle political scores with the Rampur MLA, Mr. Afroz Ali Khan accused him of thwarting attempts to get the sugar unit restarted. “A sham in the name of inauguration was conducted by the then Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh, in 2004 but within an hour the machines came to a grinding halt and it was said that it is not feasible to run the factory. This despite its modernisation and expansion with the money sanctioned by the government,” Mr. Afroz Ali Khan told The Hindu.

The Rampur factory was among the 21 operational and closed mills, belonging to the State Sugar Corporation and its subsidiary, which were to be privatised and sold by the Mayawati government. While some units were bought by liquor distributor Ponty Chadha, considered close to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, others were taken over by a Central undertaking, Indian Potash Limited, and private players.

My priority: Azam Khan

“Mayawati tried to sell the Rampur Sugar Mill, but I ensured that the deal fell through,” claims Mr. Azam Khan. He said he got about Rs. 67 crore sanctioned from the Mulayam Singh government for its modernisation and expansion, and another Rs. 35 crore was to be generated from sale of scrap. For the SP candidate restarting the mill is one of the priority areas as it would generate employment. Abki baar jo kahenge woh karenge (will fulfil what is said), Mr. Khan said.