Co-op minister brushes aside scam charges

Refuting allegations by social activists like Medha Patkar regarding sleaze in the sale of loss-making sugar factories to private parties, state co-operation minister Harshavardhan Patil yesterday said that the charges are baseless and those making them should provide documentary evidence to the ministry. Incidentally, Patkar, who was in Mumbai yesterday, said that this was a colossal scam – amounting to Rs 10,000 crore – and involved top politicians from the state.

Raising cane! State co-operation minister Harshavardhan Patil

“I have no idea where this figure of Rs 10,000 crore came from,” Patil said. He maintained that the sugar factories were sold by the co-operative banks (which run the facilities) and not by the state government.

“Previously too we had received complaints in this regard and an inquiry is already going on in Mantrayala. Also, the matter is pending in court,” Patil said. Speaking with media persons, he asserted that if the ministry found that the allegations of a Rs 10,000-crore scam by the activist to be true, a high-level probe would be conducted.

Patil said the sugarcane availability for the fresh crushing season is expected to be 645 lakh metric tonnes, which will yield 74 lakh metric tonnes of sugar for 2013-14.

“The sugarcane yield this time would be 20 per cent less than the last crushing season,” the minister claimed. He added that crushing licence would not be issued to sugarcane producers having shortage of production. Patil maintained that the state government had also requested the centre to provide a grant of Rs 300 per quintal to export 25-lakh metric tonnes of sugar for this crushing season.

The cooperation minister said that 25 sugar factories, which have remained non-functional for the last few years, would be given on lease to the state co-operatives or district banks. “These 25 factories would be handed over to the banks for long-duration lease, like the ministry did for the other six closed factories in the state, and this would make them debt free,” Patil claimed.  

Rs 10,000 crore Amount of the scam, according to Medha Patkar

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