PSSK sugar factory of Pandavapura in Mandya district prided itself on being the only cooperative sugar factory in the state. Alas, that is not the case anymore.
This sugar factory too has been handed over to private players.
The factory which was struggling to recover since the last four years has been handed over to Nirani Sugars on a 40 years contract. This has been done under the name of the revival. Nirani Sugars is owned by ex-minister Murugesh Nirani in BJP government.
Murugesh Nirani is a second-term Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Bilgi, Bagalkot, and was the Minister of Heavy Industries in the Government of Karnataka.
He is also the chairman of Nirani Group, which includes Nirani Sugars Ltd, Sai Priya Sugars Ltd, MRN Cane Power India Ltd., Nirani Cements Pvt. Ltd, and Bilagi Sugar Mill Ltd.
A bid was held on Friday and Nirani sugars won the bid. The factory which has been the site of tussle between farmers and government is finally in private hands and this has made the future and development of the factory and the farmers and workers dependent on it uncertain.
History of PSSK
This cooperative factory was started in 1959 by B.Y. Nilegowda and the sugarcane farmers of Pandavapura, Srirangapattana, and KR Pete Taluk have been dependant on this factory since then. The factory, which was running smoothly with the cooperation of farmers till 2003 suffered losses due to Visvesvaraya Canal modernization as water from KRS stopped for a year and sugarcane supply got affected. After that year, the factory was leased to Kothari company for a period of 7 years to run.
But in 2009, when Kothari company expressed its intention to extend the contract for another 30 years, the government refused. Kothari company stopped running the factory and the factory again suffered losses. By this time, Mysugar sugar cooperative factory of Mandya was also running into a loss. And administrative/directors board of PSSK was merged with Mysugar factory company. The factory kept getting into many problems including the non-payment of dues to farmers. Due to the continuous negligence of the government, now the factory has come under the ownership of private players.
The factory which was a favourite of farmers at one point in time hasn’t paid its employees for the last three years. As of now, it has the capacity of crushing 3500 tons of sugarcane per day and Nirani sugars has plans to increase it to 5000 tons a day. It also states that distillery and Co-gen(electricity generation) units will be started. Earlier the companies used to pay in advance and buy sugarcane. Now, it is said that Nirani sugars have been given exemption from this rule.
Farmers have been fighting to keep this factory under cooperative ownership for long. But as the PSSK sugar factory was not functioning, farmers who grew sugarcane in approximately 4 lac hectare land, used to struggle to transport their sugarcane into other factories hence used to suffer losses. Hence, there was a demand for a special package for the development of the factory. But instead of a special package, the government decided to give it to a private player thus causing a lot of public outrage.
Ten companies including Kothari company were interested in the contract tender. And there are rumours that, Mr. Murugesh Nirani who wanted to be a minister in the present BJP government has been given the contract to pacify the minister.