Uttar Pradesh withdraws land for rail coach factory (Lead)

October 12th, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiLucknow, Oct 12 (IANS) In a major development ahead of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit to her constituency of Rae Bareli this week, the Uttar Pradesh government has withdrawn the land it had sanctioned for an ambitious rail coach factory project of the party-led United Progressive Alliance central government.The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government in the state has withdrawn 400 acres land it had given for the proposed factory, which was slated to come up on 1,200 acres.

“The decision was taken after a report from Rae Bareli district magistrate Santosh Kumar mentioned the state of unrest amongst local villagers (against land acquisition for the project),” Vijay Shanker Pandey, principal secretary to the chief minister, told reporters Sunday.

“It was also suspected that they could take extreme steps such as suicide if the land is not returned,” he said.

In February last year, Gandhi, along with Railways Minister Lalu Prasad, laid the foundation stone of the factory. She is to perform a Bhoomi Poojan at the site Tuesday.

“However, the district magistrate has also been instructed to find a suitable replacement for this vital project of the central government,” Pandey added.

Santosh Kumar told IANS: “Besides the 400 acres of land given by the state government, the railways till date have not been successful in getting the remaining land. There is visible unrest among the local farmers who have even threatened to commit suicide if their land is not returned.”

He said the locals fear the factory was a far fetched project as the railways had failed to acquire the remaining land.

The Congress termed the state government’s decision as “an act of frustration”.

“The railways paid Rs.8.5 crore (Rs.85 million) for this land earlier this year and according to the land records of the district it is a barren patch of land. The state government has taken this step only to deprive the residents of the state of development and better job opportunities,” state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi told reporters.

“The railways, we admit, have not been successful in acquiring the total land required for the factory but it is under process and we hope to complete it in the next couple of months,” she added.

“The Congress also plans to launch a statewide agitation against the decision and we fear the step has been taken to affect Sonia’s visit,” she added.

The Congress also alleged that besides creating a hindrance in this project, Chief Minister Mayawati’s government had also tried to hamper other employment generating opportunities in this region.

“Besides a CRPF Training Centre, industrial units of Hindustan Paper Mills and a National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research are awaiting the state government’s no-objection certificate for long. But the government plans to issue the NOC only after its ‘personal interests’ have been served,” Joshi said.

Though the Congress has officially announced only Gandhi’s visit, party sources said Lalu Prasad and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi could also accompany her.

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