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Beer major tastes bitter land protest

Patna, April 8: A group of farmers today staged a protest against setting up of a brewery by Vijay Mallya’s United Breweries over land settlement.

The farmers staged the protest at the company’s site at Kopakalan village in Naubatpur, around 25km from Patna. The police had to use force to suppress the protesters.

Senior company representatives told The Telegraph that they were hopeful that the land settlement would be done within 10 days. An official of UB Group said there was no question about the company withdrawing from the Rs 200-crore project.

The Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (Biada) had handed over 42 acres to the company for the beer factory, which after becoming functional, would be the largest in eastern India.

“I am not aware of the protests at the site today. Out of the 42 acres, issues regarding 38 acres have been settled with the farmers. Only eight acres still remain to be settled. We also paid the farmers for their land when, according to the regulations, we shouldn’t because the land was transferred to us by Biada. The settlement process of the remaining land is on. It should be completed within 10 days. There is no question of pulling away from the project,” the official said.

However, today evening, villagers created a furore over the construction of the brewery’s boundary wall.

“Around 3.30pm, large number of villagers stalled the construction of the boundary wall. They clashed with officials and workers engaged in the construction work. We successfully drove out the farmers from the factory site. The villagers then blocked national highway-98. We were forced to use lathi and tear gas shells to evict them,” an officer with Naubatpur police station said.

The problems for the upcoming brewery started after Biada handed UB Group the land. Soon a group of farmers knocked the court’s door, stating they were under the impression that the land was acquired by the state government to set up a sugar mill. The court’s decision, however, came in the favour of the company. The court on February 15, 2012, had stayed the construction work of the beer factory but it later vacated the stay on March 21, 2012, clearing the UB Group’s construction work after the brewery major had agreed to pay additional amount to the aggrieved farmers.

The petitioners gave an undertaking that they would not obstruct the construction work of the factory. But later, the farmers again filed a review petition seeking adjudication of the case on the basis of merit. The court, after hearing both parties, gave a verdict in favour of Mallya’s company, saying that the land acquisition and allotment are in within the limits of law.

Company sources said things were not in a very good shape at present. “The court has passed a judgment in our favour. We have still gone a step ahead and paid the farmers. The project should have been completed within this year. But a delay is a major cause of concern,” said the official.


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