For all those who have revelled in stories about Bihar's rapid journey into industrial oblivion would know that the decline of Sugar Mills in the state is the flagbearer of all those stories.The state of Bihar which once contributed to 40% of India's sugar production(during 1980s) is now down to contributing just around 4% of it. Most of the sugar mills in the state were established during the British regime due to the soil and climatic conditions, specially of North Bihar being suitable for the sugar based industries. Post independence only 1 other mill was opened during 1970-71 in Banmankhi, Purnia.
There were 33 sugar mills in Bihar before Independence. This number according to the Sugarcane Development Department of Bihar has now reduced to 28, of which only 11 are operational and the rest 17 have been closed. Ten of the total functional mills are run by private managements. This means that 67% of the state's sugar mills were either completely shut down or are non-functional.
The deplorable condition of these mills as well as the farmers and workers who were dependent on these for their bread and butter is cited as an example of the Bihar's de-industrialization.
In his recent interview to OpIndia, Bihar's former Minister of Department of Sugarcane Development, Nitish Mishra, said that during his tenure from 2005-08, many attempts were made to revive the industry which included:-
- Revival of the Sugauli and Lauriya sugar mills.
- Payment of around 8 crore pending amount to the farmers and workers.
- Also attempts were made to lure private investment in the sector, with plans to give the mills on lease for 60 years. Though he said that they failed to get any investment due to the sugar industry going through a recession in the country at that point of time. The main reason behind this disinterest from the investors however could have been the "Cane Control Order" by then Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, that prohibited independent production of "ethanol"(which was lucrative to the private players) at sugar mills in the country.