Rahul Gandhi with a girl in Khalispur village in Amethi on Monday. (PTI)
Amethi, Aug. 17: The Mayavati government in Uttar Pradesh has refused to forcibly acquire land for a paper mill project in the Gandhi family pocketborough, triggering a fresh tussle with the Congress which itself had taken a similar position while opposing the Nano plant in Bengals Singur.
The state government has told the Centre that it was not possible to hand over land for the proposed project of the public-sector Hindustan Paper Corporation in the Jagdishpur Industrial Area, started by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the mid-eighties.
Rajivs son Rahul Gandhi, who now represents Amethi — which covers Jagdishpur — in the Lok Sabha, is trying to bring back industries to the region.
Chief minister Mayavati, however, has been critical of the UPA bringing over government projects to Amethi and Rae Bareli, where, she maintains, farmers are unwilling to part with their agricultural land. The paper mill project will require 600 acres.
Rahul, who, along with Union industry minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, was in Jagdishpur today to inaugurate a stamping unit of Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, tore into the state government for not backing the UPAs efforts at industrialisation.
This is a huge project. But the Uttar Pradesh government has stalled it. It said there is no land for the project, Rahul said.
Deshmukh said he had written to Mayavati requesting her to allot land for the Rs 3,000-crore project. She told us that no land was available in the area, the minister said.
The project will create job prospects for young men and women. Once the project starts, ancillary factories will come up and create opportunities for the local people, Deshmukh said.
A spokesperson for the state government in Lucknow said non-agriculture land was not available near Jagdishpur Industrial Estate. We have got feedback from the families of the farmers. They are not willing to part with their cultivable land, he said.
The government, he said, could consider sanctioning land if the project was shifted to some other part of the state like Bundelkhand, an arid region. There is no need for all the projects to go to Amethi, said the spokesperson.
The mill appears to have become yet another bone of contention in the tussle between Mayavati and the Congress. However, the Congresss position, as laid out by Deshmukh, who said the Centre was willing to pay more for the land to the farmers, goes against what the party stated during the Singur row.
When the controversy over the Nano project had erupted, the Congress had initially been ambivalent, but later toed the Trinamul Congress line that land could not be acquired forcibly from the farmers.
Deshmukh insisted that adequate price would be paid to the farmers. Besides, he added, the Centre had already promised a job in the mill to one member from each of the farmer families who gave up land.
At least 25,000 people will benefit from the project and the central government will fund it entirely, Rahul said.