Dream tower runs into land hurdle - Khadi board refuses to part with plot

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By BIBHUTI BARIK
  • Published 10.09.14
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Bhubaneswar, Sept. 9: The state government’s plan to build a 23-storey commercial hub — Ekamra Tower — on Janpath in Kharavela Nagar has run into rough weather following resistance from the Odisha Khadi and Village Industries Board on whose land it is supposed to come up. Several Gandhians in the city, too, have opposed the idea.

The representatives of the khadi board failed to turn up at the high-power project approval committee of the state government held at the secretariat on Monday triggering speculation that non-cooperation on their part might force the Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (Idco), the executing agency for the project, to shelve the prestigious venture.

In 2013, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the proposed Ekamra Tower, which is to be built on 3.31 acres for Rs 235 crore. It is now left to Naveen to take the final call on the project’s fate.

Of the 3.31 acres, the khadi board owns 2.50 acres and the rest belongs to the general administration department. The headquarters of the board is situated on the land in question.

Several Gandhians are also irked at the proposal to shift the headquarters of the khadi board to Gandamunda for the sake of the tower.

Former MP and freedom fighter Bhabani Charan Patnaik said: “The decision of the state government to build a business hub at a place associated with Gandhian thoughts and the khadi movement is not proper. The worst part is the proposal to shift the khadi board office from its present location. Everyone associated with Gandhian thoughts and movement will oppose this.’’

Secretary of the Vinoba Bhave Seva Pratisthan, Odisha, Manoj Jena said the tower would in no way help boost the finances of the board, whose office should not shifted at any cost.

Jena also alleged that the construction of the tower would be in violation of the principle of government’s land allotment policy, which was against commercial complexes being raised on land allotted for institutional purposes.

Convener, National Youth Project, Madhusudan Das said: “It is an indirect attempt to grab land belonging to the khadi board. The government should look for alternative sites. Besides, with a World Trade Centre already planned for Bhubaneswar, what is the purpose of having another commercial complex of such huge proportions?”

He said the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation was finding it hard to sell commercial space in a mall running in public-private-partnership venture in Shahid Nagar.

Idco chairman-cum-managing director Vishal Kumar Dev told The Telegraph: “Certain elements are making a mountain of a mole hill. When both khadi board and Idco belong to the state government, there should be no controversy. Besides, there is hardly any activity at the present Khadi board office in Kharvela Nagar’’

On the proposed shifting of the khadi board office to Gandamunda, he said: “In the past we have offered to pay them double the price for the Kharvela Nagar land (Rs 43.80 crore for 2.5 acres), but they did not agree. The project is already late by eight months and we have already spent some money by paying a premium to the general administration department.’’

Dev said the project approval committee felt that the khadi board would not fit into the opulent ambience of the proposed Ekamra Tower and hence shifting it to some other was a better option.

“If the Khadi Board officials don’t cooperate, we may consider shelving the project,” he said.

Speaking to The Telegraph, khadi board president Tejeswar Parida refuted the Idco claim that there was no activity at Kharavela Nagar office of the board.

“We are on the path of revival and our employees are committed to make it happen sooner than later. We do not want to shift as we have our roots here,’’ he said emphatically.