Hyderabad: On February 8, twenty workers from Telangana’s Nizam Deccan Sugars Limited (NDSL) began an ‘Aakali Poru Padayatra’ (Hunger Agitation Rally ) from the main gate of the company at Bodhan in Nizamabad district towards the state capital of Hyderabad. They demanded that the state government address the needs of the workers of the government-run company which has gone bankrupt.
Fifty-nine-year-old Kumara Swamy, who is participating in the rally says that about two hundred workers were “illegally” laid off by NDSL in December 2015. “In the last five years 20 workers have died due to financial hardships while several others are now either on their death bed or critical due to medical conditions. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and other elected representatives from the district have made many promises that they would revive the factory and compensate the workers but in vain,” said Swamy, adding that the Padayatra was a means to remind the government of the state of the factory workers.
On Friday, the Padayatra reached Jangampalle in Nizamabad District.
BStarted by Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1937, the sugar factory was spread across 1,600 acres in Bodhan and had been the largest sugar producer in Asia for decades. In 2002 the Telugu Desam Party government under the then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in a united Andhra Pradesh handed over 51% of the government’s stake to the Delta Paper Mills after entering into a joint venture with the private entity. According to the trade unions, as the factory began making losses, the management offered a voluntary retirement scheme which was opted for by 1,200 of the total 1,400 workers.
Subsequently, Naidu’s successor, Y.S. Rajashekara Reddy, had appointed a committee which recommended the revival of the factory but no steps were taken towards it.
After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government in April 2015 had passed a government order notifying that it would resume operations at all its three units in Bodhan, Metpalli and Medak under cooperative sector. However, a few months later, in December that year, the private management abruptly laid off hundreds of workers including 200 permanent workers and subsequently approached National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in 2017 seeking liquidation.
“It appeared to be a dispute between the state government and the private entity. But the government neither tried to resolve the issue before it was taken to the tribunal nor did it attempt to do so inside the NCLT,” said Swamy.
In June 2019, the NCLT ordered the liquidation of NDSL, a move which was subsequently stayed in July 2019 by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in New Delhi as sought by the state government.
According to senior Congress leader P. Sudarshan Reddy, the government has been deliberately avoiding settling the issue instead of reviving the factory. “Sugarcane farmers in the region had to shift to paddy cultivation after the closure of the factory. There has been a longstanding demand by the farming community for the restoration of the factory there,” said Reddy.
“Why is the government turning a blind eye to the workers of the factory. Most of the workers are now in their fifties and are in dire need of government assistance amid financial hardship. We demand that the government pays salaries for the last five years and settles the concerns of the workers which is definitely not a burden but its own promise,” added Swamy.
Gopi Kishan, a Shiv Sena leader from the district, said that the workers have led historic protests demanding the revival of the plant. “The BJP MP from Nizamabad, Dharmapuri Aravind and TRS MLA Mohammad Shakeel have failed to address the concerns of the workers,” he said.