The Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner on Wednesday served revenue recovery certificates (RRCs) to 39 errant sugar factory operators for failing to pay the fair and remunerative price (FRP) arrears to sugarcane farmers.The move comes days after Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief and Hatkanangale MP Raju Shetti, along with the Swaraj Party’s Yogendra Yadav, staged an agitation in front of the Sugar Commissionerate here on Monday, demanding action against 180-odd sugar mill operators who have not paid the FRP amount to farmers.While Mr. Shetti called off his proposed indefinite fast, which was to be held on Wednesday, he has warned that unless RRCs are issued to other defaulting sugar factory owners, the SSS would resume its agitation next month. Around 20 of the factories that have been served RRCs are located in the ‘sugar heartland’ districts of Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara and Solapur, while the rest are in Marathwada. The respective district collectors can now authorise seizure of sugar stock in the godowns of these defaulting factories, preventing them from selling it.Speaking to The Hindu from New Delhi, Mr. Shetti said the SSS would file a caveat in the Bombay High Court if the defaulting factory owners attempted to put pressure on Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad by urging the State Cooperation Minister not to withdraw further RRCs.He said that most of the sugar factories are in the hands of members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Despite the tall promises given by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at the sugar conclave in Kolhapur in October last year, there has been no communication from him on this issue for the last three months. There was one meeting between the Chief Minister and the mill owners, where it agreed that only 80% of the FRP amount would be paid to farmers and that factory owners would not be investigated,” he claimed. SSS spokesman Anil Pawar said that only nine of the 190 sugar mills in the State had paid the full FRP to farmers. “Of the 180-odd defaulting factories, 77 are owned by BJP leaders, 53 belong to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders, 43 are owned by Congress members, and the others belong to Shiv Sena leaders,” Mr. Pawar said.Mr. Shetti said that of the FRP arrears of ₹5,320 crore, a total ₹1,505 crore was owed to farmers by factories belonging to BJP leaders, while ₹1,502 crore was due from those run by NCP leaders. The factories owned by Congress leaders had pending dues of ₹1,341 crore, he said.“The question is, whom do farmers turn to for justice when ruling party leaders are the biggest defaulters? Cooperation Minister Subhash Deshmukh’s sugar factory has pending FRP arrears amounting to ₹104 crore, while Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde’s factory has a backlog of ₹64 crore,” Mr. Shetti said.However, bigwigs in the Opposition parties were even bigger defaulters, with factories controlled by NCP leader Ajit Pawar yet to pay ₹245 crore to farmers. Similarly, factories controlled by senior Congress leader Harshawardhan Patil owe a whopping ₹141 crore, while those run by Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, owe ₹68 crore to farmers.Mr. Shetti’s agitation just before the general election is expected to strengthen Mr. Shetti’s hand in the sugar belt districts in western Maharashtra. A former ally of the NDA, the two-time MP is now being backed by the NCP as part of the Congress-NCP’s ‘grand alliance’ strategy to oust the BJP.Projecting itself as the mascot of sugarcane and dairy farmers, the Swabhimani Paksha, the political arm of the SSS, is hoping to expand its presence in the State. “While we are confident Mr. Shetti will resoundingly win from Hatkanangale, we hope to field [Swabhimani Paksha State president] Ravikant Tupkar from the Buldhana constituency this time. Our aim is to win at least two seats in the Lok Sabha election and 12 in the Assembly election,” Mr. Pawar said.