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Eulogium on Sugar Cooperatives

Ganesh Prashad

By B.S. Baviskar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 241, Rs. 75.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 3 November/December 1980

Sugar has produced magnates, bosses, operators and lobbies. These have held the country to ransom. The phenomenon will make V.L. Mehta and D.R. Gadgil turn in their graves. The former, Minister of Finance and Co-operation in post­-Independence Bombay state, had encou­raged the growth of co-operative sugar factories with great enthusiasm. The latter, a renowned economist and a zealous chairman for the first ten years of the first post-independence co-opera­tive sugar factory, created an organiza­tional framework and laid down certain practices and conventions which became a model for subsequent factories. Dr. B.S. Baviskar's book incorporates his research, studies and thinking of about two decades. The study focuses on the Kisan or Kopargaon co-operative sugar factory located in a rural area of Kopargaon taluka in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The Sugar Enquiry Commission of 1965 found that in Maharashtra a co­operative sugar factory contributed signi­ficantly in the establishment of other agro-industries and in providing educa­tional and medical facilities in the area. It acted, so the Commission recorded, ‘as a nucleus for social and economic development of the area around it and has helped to develop a new class of en­trepreneurs.’ Elaborating the theme, Baviskar shows that, the Maharashtra sugar co-operatives ‘have not only modernized agriculture in sugarcane­growing areas and changed it from a subsistence to a commercial proposition, but have also brought about a far-reach­ing social, economic and political trans­formation in the rural areas’. Such is the development brought about by the Green Revolution which, incidentally, does not figure in the book. The benefits of prosperity have gone mainly to the sugarcane-growers, espe­cially the big ones, the sugar co-opera­tives, the author admits, ‘have not been able to reduce inequalities in income and wealth. If anything, such inequalities appear to have increased’. Inequalities among sugarcane-growers have been shown, but those between the rich and the poor are totally ignored. The plight of the underdog does not exercise the mind of the researcher. The book devotes hardly a few paragraphs on problems concerning workers. And there the only emphasis is on the petty feuds of these wretched beings. In the long appendix there is a short paragraph which provides a glimpse into the condition of the hapless workers, though it is far from the intention of the author. An illiterate and unskilled Harijan worker, called through the foreman to ...

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