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Sick sugar unit may become a poll issue

Staff Correspondent
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The factory stopped crushing sugarcane in 2004 amidst mounting losses

A view of the Brahmavar Sugar Factory in Udupi district.
A view of the Brahmavar Sugar Factory in Udupi district.

The Dakshina Kannada Sahakari Sakkare Karkhane, also called Brahmavar Cooperative Sugar Factory, which has been dormant for eight years with unpaid dues to its workers and farmers, is all set to emerge as one of the major issues in the forthcoming by-election to the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha seat.

The factory, which began functioning in 1985, stopped crushing sugarcane in 2004, amidst mounting losses. The factory owes Rs. 24 crore to the Government.

Liabilities

The immediate liabilities of the factory are estimated at Rs. 12 crore, including Rs. 4.45 crore to the factory workers, Rs. 4.5 crore to cooperative societies, and Rs. 1.92 crore to farmers.

The factory was started on the premise that the Varahi Irrigation Project, when commissioned, would provide irrigation to a minimum of 12,000 acres of land in Udupi district, thereby helping in producing 2.5 lakh tonnes of sugarcane. This cane would then be supplied to the factory helping it to earn profit. Although the foundation stone for the factory and the Varahi Irrigation Project was laid at the same time in 1980, the latter is still under construction.

Secretary of the Factory Workers' Union S. Kumar told The Hindu on Monday that the workers were leading a tough life because of non-payment of dues. “A worker committed suicide last year. Many workers are now doing menial jobs. The Government should help us,” he said.

Udupi Zilla Krishik Sangha president B. Ramakrishna Sharma said the Government had done nothing to rejuvenate the factory, except for paying lip sympathy to it. “The Varahi project is not an essential requirement for farmers, but prompt payment by the factory is. Sugarcane cultivation is not labour intensive. There is no political will to solve the problem,” he said.

Udupi District Congress Committee president Gopal Poojary said: “The former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, D.V. Sadananda Gowda as MP and later as Chief Minister had promised to rejuvenate the factory, but action has not been taken. We will focus on the issue in the by-election.” Janata Dal (Secular) district unit president Deviprasad Shetty was more scathing. “If the Government did not want to do anything, why did it keep giving false assurances to farmers for the last four years? It is time Mr. Gowda came clean on the issue,” he said.

Chairman of the factory M. Jayasheela Shetty said the Government had tried to lease the factory for 30 years to a private party in 2007.

Under litigation

But the private party backed out and the matter was under arbitration as per court orders. However, three private parties had recently evinced interest in the factory on the condition that the immediate liabilities were cleared. “Hence we have sought a soft loan of Rs. 12 crore from the Government.

The Varahi Irrigation Project will provide irrigation to 10,000 acres of land by 2014. This will turn the tide in favour of the factory,” Mr. Shetty said.


  • Its immediate liabilities stand at Rs. 12 crore

  • ‘The workers are in problems due to pending dues'


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