Growing debt leaves Ponlait employees a concerned lot

Ponlait, one of the few societies running on profit, has started showing signs of financial strain putting it's 1000 odd workforce under stress. T. Singaravelou

Ponlait, one of the few societies running on profit, has started showing signs of financial strain putting it's 1000 odd workforce under stress. T. Singaravelou   | Photo Credit: T. Singaravelou

‘The cooperative has an accumulated loss of around ₹15 crore’

Around 1,000 employees of the government-owned Cooperative Milk Producers Union, popularly known as Ponlait, are a concerned lot these days due to the growing debt burden of the once profit-making cooperative society.

The region requires around 1.10 lakh litres of milk a day. The society meets the daily requirement by procuring around 50,000 litres from the local primary cooperative societies and meets the deficit by buying milk from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Financial strain on the society started building up over the last few years and from 2016 it started running on loss. It has an accumulated loss of around ₹15 crore, said honorary president of Confederation of Government Employees Association C. H. Balamohan.

“We have several examples of how public sector undertakings and societies got defunct due to lack of timely intervention in setting things right. The Anglo French Textiles and Puducherry Agro Service and Industries Corporation Limited are the best examples. The neglect led to winding up of operations by these once profit making units and displacement of thousands of staff,” he said.

According to R. Mahesh, president of Ponlait Workers Union, there was a systematic effort to delay payment to government run societies in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for the milk procured. Once the pending bills started piling up, the societies stopped supply to Ponlait. To tide over the shortage, the society started buying milk from private producers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu at a higher price, he added.

In terms of delivery of milk packets to consumers also there are pressing issues. The vehicles which are supposed to deliver milk packets to Ponlait parlours and to vendors before 5 a.m. often fail to keep the time schedule.

“We are receiving complaints from consumers about delay in getting milk. This has also affected sales considerably. There was a time when we used to deliver the entire sourced milk. Now on an average per day, the sales stands at around 80,000 litres. Many consumers have shifted to individual milk vendors. We are really worried about the state of affairs in the society,” Mr. Mahesh said.

The society has also been forced to cut down production of several milk products due to shortage of raw materials. “Many of the problems could be sorted if they adopt e-tender,” said general secretary of the association M. Bakthavalsalam.

The main reason for the closure of several public sector undertakings and societies was maladministration. Back door entry and opening of unviable parlours in certain constituencies are some of the other issues confronting the society, said Mr. Mahesh.

“We are witnessing similar things unfolding in Ponlait also. If the society becomes non-profitable, it is going to ultimately affect consumers,” said Mr. Balamohan.

According to a senior administrator, steps were being taken to clear all pending dues and revive the society. The management would not do anything which would cause any problem for its employees and mar the reputation of Ponlait, he added.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 9:16:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/growing-debt-leaves-ponlait-employees-a-concerned-lot/article30527804.ece

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