Cassian Baliarsingh

The growing uncertainties over the reopening of Nayagarh Sugar Complex Limited (NSCL) have left thousand of sugarcane farmers in the lurch. The factory has been lying defunct since 2015.

Thousands of sugarcane growers, who depended on the sugarcane factory, have been waiting for the reopening of the mill, but to no avail. Despite repeated protests and pleas, the appeals of farmers fall on deaf ears of the administration and the State government.

No one seems to be bothered about the plight of the farmers who are now forced to migrate to other states to work as labourers. The mill which is capable of crushing 1.2 lakh tones of sugarcane and played a significant role in bolstering the agrarian economy of Nayagarh and its adjoining districts is dying a slow death.

Thousands of farmers who depended on the mill are now left with nowhere to go. On the other hand, equipment and machinery worth crores of rupees have reportedly been stolen from the sugar mill due to lack of security.

“We earned our livelihood from the sugar mill. Now, we have nowhere to go and are forced to sell our produce at cheaper prices to middlemen,” rued a sugarcane farmer, Dinabandhu Jena.

Setup in 1980, the Odisha Government sold the Sugar Mill to Trailokya Mishra, owner of Naya Sugar Complex Ltd for a mere Rs 5 crore. Later, the company allegedly swindled a whopping Rs 20 crore and fled while farmers and staff of the mill have not received their dues till today.

“We are into sugarcane farming for the last 50 or more years. Now, we are forced to quit farming and go to work as migrant labourers,” said another farmer, Dinabandhu Swain.

“The sugar mill was the backbone of Nayagarh and other adjoining districts. However, the government sold it for a throwaway price and is playing with the livelihood of farmers. During elections, the local MLA had promised that he would take steps to reopen the sugar mill if he was elected. However, he has now forgotten all his promises,” said Soumya Ranjan Pradhan, a social worker.

On the other hand, the dying sugar mill has become a matter of political mileage now. While BJD had promised to reopen the sugar mill if they won the previous election, Congress is now trying to use the same tactics.

“The sugar mill was the Taj Mahal of Nayagarh set up during Congress rule by former chief minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik. The present BJD MLA had garnered votes with the assurances of reopening the sugar mill in 2019. We will help it reopen if we are voted to power,” said a Congress leader.

Now, with the 2024 General Elections coming soon, political parties have once again started playing politics to gain people’s votes through various ‘fake’ promises on the sugar mill.

(Reported by Jayendra Behera, OTV)