58 Maharashtra sugar mills sold at well below market prices: Raju Shetti

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana's chief Raju Shetti.  

After Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar last week refuted the BJP allegations pertaining to the sale of sugar factories in the State, farmer leader and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief Raju Shetti on Monday hit out at both the NCP and the BJP by alleging that 58 sugar mills were “fraudulently sold” well below their market prices over a 10-year period between 2007 and 2017.

Mr. Shetti, a former two-time MP from Hatkanangale in Kolhapur district, has written to the Reserve Bank of India Governor and the Finance Secretary of India among others, seeking revaluation of the assets of these mills which were reportedly sold at knockdown prices by the Maharashtra Co-operative bank (MSCB), which is mired in a multi-crore scam.

Mr. Shetti said the mills were sold during the tenures of both the erstwhile Congress-NCP and the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Shiv Sena government.

In his letter, the farmer leader, seeking the RBI’s urgent intervention, has claimed that all sugar mills in question were owned and constructed by farmer shareholders and that alleged irregularities committed by the board members had forced the mills into closure.

“All these mills occupied a huge swathe of land in prime location. But during the valuation of assets during sale, the valuation of land was done at their respective book values. For instance, the Aurangabad-based Kannad cooperative sugar mill, despite occupying a 300-acre space was sold at a mere ₹17 lakh. And this is not an isolated case,” Mr. Shetti alleged.

The former MP sought the appointment of a banking ombudsman by the RBI to revalue the assets and liabilities of all the 58 mills sold by the MSC Bank and the State Governments of the time.

“Since the money of small and marginal farmers was involved in developing these sugar mills, it warrants that the assets of these sugar mills are properly valued. These mills were financed by various district central cooperative (DCC) banks. The selling of these mills has adversely affected these DCC banks in which farmers had deposited their hard-earned money,” Mr. Shetti observed.

He said he had been pursuing this case for over a decade now and that he had already filed a police complaint as well as a criminal writ petition in this regard with the Bombay High Court.

Mr. Shetti, who had been twice elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 and 2014, has been known for taking on the sugar barons of the NCP and the Congress.

Once an NDA constituent, Mr. Shetti severed ties with the BJP in 2017 to become a vociferous critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies. The farmer leader, who had backed the NCP and the Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, was defeated in the general election that year.

Of late, Mr. Shetti has been targeting both the tripartite MVA government of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress as well as the BJP for shying away on farmers’ issues and instead engaging each other in trivial political slugfest.

Last week, Mr. Ajit Pawar, fending off BJP allegations of corruption during the sale of these sugar mills, claimed that the processes of selling these factories were carried out in a “strictly legal manner” and that successive probes by the agencies like the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Economic and Offences Wing had yielded nothing.

The Deputy Chief Minister had further stated that the consistent allegations being made by the BJP against himself and his relatives regarding the allegedly illicit sale of the Satara-based Jarandeshwar factory (also part of the MSCB probe) were “thoroughly misleading” and had “no basis in fact”.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 11:09:07 AM |

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