MP govt moves ahead with Hukumchand Mill land sale

After a long wait, ex-employees and workers of age-old Hukumchand Mill in Indore, have some good news. The state government has "in-principal" decided to seek judicial permission to sell 42.49 acres of mill land to pay workers' dues.

"The dues have reached Rs 220 crore and state government would move to court to seek permission to sell it. A proper cabinet approval will be taken in this regard in next cabinet meeting," Narottam Mishra, a cabinet minister and state government spokesperson said here, "We will plea the court to allow state government to sell the land instead through arbitrator.".

The debt recovery tribunal had put it on auction in November last year but there were no takers. "Since there is a dispute over the ownership of the land between Indore Municipal Corporation and state industry department, none come forward to take it," a government source told Business Standard.

The minister however said a cabinet decision in coming weeks will clear all doubts and the land would be auctioned according to court directions. "State cabinet has given in-principal approval for the purpose." The minister also did not disclose the number of ex-workers of the mill but a source in the industry department said there are 6,000 workers who have long pending dues for the last 24 years when the mill was closed.

In 1981 the mill obtained a loan of Rs 80 lakh from a bank but it "defaulted" resulting in mounting debt and eventual closure. To recover the dues, the bank had put it on auction through DRT. If Indore industrial sources are believed, the mill land cost may not be less than Rs 1,500 crore, but it is classified as "industrial land" and hence may fetch a lower price.

Set up by Seth Hukum Chand Jain, a business magnet of Holkar era, on a the land allotted by Holkar Maharajas, the mill is yet a big question for as many as 6000 ex-workers. Hukum Chand had set up two mills in Indore namely Hukam Chand Mill and Raj Kumar Mill. He had also set up a jute mill and iron mill at Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) and was known as a pioneer in 'Swadeshi Industry'. Hukumchand had also supported Mahatma Gandhi in his Khadi movement in 1920. "State chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had taken personal interest in settling dues of the workers and a solution would come soon," Mishra said.

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