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Food park teaser for state industry dream

Patna, Sept. 16: The prospects of industrial development in the state amid Nitish Kumar’s claims of susashan (good governance) have become an object of ridicule.

Terming the mega food park project in Kahalgaon (Bhagalpur) a “laughing stock”, the Union ministry of food processing industries has said the state could no longer be trusted regarding timely completion of the project.

Senior ministry officials, wishing anonymity, told The Telegraph today that the project, which has been shifted to Banka, would be cancelled immediately after the original deadline for its completion is over.

The officials added that a review meeting in connection with all the mega food parks allotted to different states was scheduled in October and a final decision on the Bihar food park would be taken there.

“The mega food park, which Keventer Agro Group was to set up in Bhagalpur, has become a laughing stock of the ministry. Such is the case that Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority, even after allotting land to them, has not been able to provide its physical possession to the special purpose vehicle (SPV). There was a meeting in the ministry today (Monday) too and the issue of Bihar was discussed. It is shocking that the state government has not been able to do virtually nothing in this connection. Keventer Agro has approached us several times but then it is the state government, which has to act,” said a senior ministry official.

On being told that the Bihar government was in the process of shifting the project to Banka, the official reacted sharply. “The state government failed to provide land to the SPV (Keventer) in Kahalgaon even after such a long time. What is the guarantee that they would succeed in Banka? One can say that the ministry is sick and tired of Bihar’s attitude towards the mega food park,” said the official.

When contacted, Niraj Kumar Gayagi, the director of ministry of food processing industries, said several reminders had been served to the Bihar government regarding the food park.

In March this year, Sharad Pawar, the minister of agriculture and food processing industries, had sent a letter (in possession with The Telegraph) to the chief minister raising concern.

“The Rs 150-crore project, approved on November 20, 2011, carries a deadline of 30 months, that is May, 2014. When the letter was sent to Bihar, 14 months had already passed. The letter further said other similar projects approved at the same time had seen considerable progress. The state did not reply to the Centre’s letter. The ministry’s tender mentions that the project would automatically get cancelled if not executed within the deadline,” said another ministry official.

Satyajeet Kumar, the chairman of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Bihar and a major stakeholder in the project, said once the land is physically handed over, construction would start immediately. However, a source said: “The project would be delayed for sure.”