YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has constituted a three-member committee to look into the feasibility of reviving six sugar factories located across Andhra Pradesh.
While this decision has brought cheer to the peoples who were dependent on the factories for employment, unintentionally, it could turn out to be yet another headache for his Telangana counterpart, KCR.
Telangana is home to Nizam Sugars, the famous sugar factory set up in 1937 by the Nizam and said to be the largest in Asia. In 2002, the factory was privatized by Chandrababu Naidu and began incurring heavy losses.
Later, a legislative committee appointed by YSR had recommended that the government should take over the factory. However, the recommendation could not be implemented due to the untimely death of YSR.
In 2014, KCR had promised during the movement for separate Telangana state that the government will take over the factory and restore it to its former glory.
Accordingly, in 2015, the TRS issued a GO to take over the factory completely from its private operators who were no longer interested in running it and were not making payments to farmers despite procuring sugarcane from them.
Interestingly, a statement from the CM’s office then said that KCT took the decision to save the farmers and workers.
However, soon after, KCR did a complete volte-face by announcing in the Assembly that Nizam Sugars is a closed chapter now and that the government would not take it over.
“The farmers have switched to other crops as the factory has been closed since a decade ago. Now, they are not willing to grow sugarcane again. We have consulted the local farmers.
“A group of 400 farmers were taken to Maharashtra for study but even after that the farmers are not willing to cultivate sugarcane.
“The Nizam Sugar Factory requires 10 lakh tonnes of sugarcane for crushing. Now, only one lakh ton of sugarcane is available.
“Though the state government was willing to foot the bill for overhauling all the machinery in the three units of NSF with one unit at Bodhan in Nizamabad district, another at Mumbojipally in Medak district and a third one at Muthyampet village in Karimnagar district, and hand them over to farmers, they not ready to form a cooperative to run the units,” said KCR.
Eventually, he said the government would clear all arrears, settle all payments to the private operator and take over Nizam Sugars only if the farmers were willing to run it as a farmers’ society as in Maharashtra.
Since 2015, the workers have not been getting any salaries as the private management has shut down operations.
“If cash-strapped Andhra can absorb RTC workers into the government, why not Telangana?” is the argument of the TSRTC employees.
Similarly, if YS Jagan does indeed revive any sugar factories in Andhra Pradesh, it will turn out to be one hell of a migraine for KCR.