AAP, panel oppose Faridkot sugar mill machinery shifting to Bhogpur

By Times Of India on 24 Apr 2018 | read
FARIDKOT: Even as Punjab government plans to upgrade cooperative sugar mills and revive closed mills, the machinery of Faridkot cooperative sugar mill is being shifted to sugar mill at Bhogpur near Jalandhar. The decision to shift the machinery is being resisted by a panel, Khand Mill Bachao Sangharsh Committee, and AAP. After it turned into a loss making unit, the sugar mill was closed 12 years ago in 2006. The struggle committee and AAP want the government to explore options to revive it.
Three days ago AAP had started a dharna outside the mill, where AAP Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh and Jaito MLA Baldev Singh had sat on Saturday. Earlier, AAP MLA and leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira too participated in the protest. Khaira said his party would not allow the government to sell off the mill. Besdies, Sadhu Singh, MP, said that, “The cooperative sugar mill was the only industry in the area. The government should make efforts to revive the mill so that employment could be generated and crop diversification could be achieved by making fames to plant sugarcane.”

“As the machinery is being shifted to the Bhogpur mill in Jalandhar, we learnt that the state government wanted to earn money by selling plots of Faridkot mill’s land through Puda. We will not allow the government to sell the state resources,” the KMBSC member Jiwanjot Kaur.

On the other hand, Manpreet Badal on Friday had said that the issue of revival of mills would be discussed in the cabinet meeting. Faridkot MLA Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon of the Congress said that, “Only oudated machinery is being shifted out from the sugar mill. The government is trying for its revival. The cabinet sub-committee has hired a consultant, who will conduct feasibility study regarding chances of its revival. The study may be completed in a couple of months and only then any decision would be made.”

The cooperative sugar mill was set up in Faridkot in 1988 over nearly 50 acres. A total 136 acres were acquired for the mill, which was fed by farmers of Faridkot, Moga, Ferozepur and Muktsar districts. Nearly 4.5 lakh tonne sugarcane was crushed each season from October to March. There were 183 regular employees and 239 seasonal. On March 10, 2006, the mill was closed under liquidation after incurring losses. It was subsequently declared a sick unit and since then the machinery turned into junk, a former mill employee told TOI.

Since then, almost all liabilities have been paid, including the payment to nearly 200 employees under voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and stakeholders. A part of the 136 acres was transferred to Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA). Plantation of sugarcane has also stopped in the entire area. On June 11, 2014, the state cabinet headed by the then chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, had put its stamp on the closure of the sugar mill.

Bhogpur cooperative sugar mill general manager Bhupinder Singh Gill, who also holds charge of Faridkot mill, said that, “The state government gave people nearly four years to explore options to revive the mill but it is not possible as the area farmers have stopped planting sugarcane. The machinery here has become obsolete and only a part of it will be used at Bhogpur. The employees of this mill have all obtained VRS, barring one.”