Staff Reporter

Associations file separate public interest litigations at HC Bench

MADURAI: The uncertainty prevailing over commencing operations at the National Cooperative Sugar Mills Limited in Alanganallur near here has created anxiety among farmers with many of their associations filing separate public interest litigations before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

Admitting one of the cases moved by M. Meenakshi Sundaram, president of United Cane Growers Association (UCGA) on Friday, a Division Bench comprising Justice A. Kulasekaran and Justice R. Regupathi directed the Director of Sugars to file his counter affidavit and posted the matter along with other related petitions to February 1.

Similar PIL

The Bench, while disposing of a similar PIL on January 6, had directed the authorities to immediately issue orders for cutting the ripened cane in the demarcated fields. The order was passed after recording the official submission that crushing operation would commence by January 25. But the mill is yet to begin functioning.

Following the impasse, the Alanganallur Karumbu Vivasayigal Sangam moved the Bench seeking a direction to start crushing work and the case is pending adjudication. On the contrary, the UCGA has now moved the court seeking to restrain the government authorities from interfering with the farmers' decision to sell their yield to private mill owners.

In his affidavit, the president of UCGA said the cooperative mill, which was functioning since 1965 incurred huge losses since 1999 and consequently its operations came to a halt in 2001. Since then, the farmers falling under the demarcated area sold their yield to private mills and many of them had already entered into a contract with private mills for the 2006-07 crushing season.

But suddenly, the Government during November 2005, decided to start the mill and prevented farmers from selling their produce to private mills, Mr. Meenakshi Sundaram alleged. He claimed that the mandatory provisions of constituting a body to discuss with farmers on the quantity of cane required for the year, the price and other modalities, were not followed.

Hence, it was not proper on the part of the government to begin operations for 2006-07 crushing season and a decision could be taken only for the next crushing season after complying with necessary procedures.