A little over three years after 230 acres of land was allotted to Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Food and Herbal Park in Nagpur at a throwaway price, the state government has once again rolled out the red carpet for the yoga guru.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has now invited the same company to set up a soybean processing unit in Latur and offered it a 400-acre plot at 50 per cent of the prevailing rate and a host of other discounts.
The new offer, in the form of a letter written by the CM himself to the yoga guru, has come despite the fact that three years after its allotment, the Nagpur land has only a few sheds on it and no signs of a manufacturing unit.
The land in Ausa taluka of Latur being offered to Baba Ramdev was acquired from farmers in 2013 for a Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited factory and the land owners were promised jobs once the facility was up and running. However, farmers are not sure if Baba Ramdev’s private enterprise will honour that commitment.
Apart from a 50 per cent discount on the cost of land, Fadnavis has also promised to waive off the stamp duty, reimburse the GST that Baba Ramdev would have to pay, and offer a rebate of Re1 per unit in electricity charges.
The offer – which people are describing as the government bending over backwards to please the yoga guru, who boasts of a large following – was made less than a week after Fadnavis shared stage with him at a yoga event in Nanded.
Farmers who gave up land in 2013 say they feel cheated because they were paid a mere Rs 3.5 lakh per acre, while the current going rate is Rs 45 lakh for an acre. “There is a highway going through the land now, leading to a spike in prices. We sold our land for peanuts, got no jobs, and now we are being told that not BHEL but Baba Ramdev will put up a factory here,” said Shrimant Landge. He added that farmers gave up their land for a national project. “If our land is going to be used for a private project, we must be compensated at market rate,” he said.
There was no response to messages left on Fadnavis’s phone on Monday. A senior official in his office, who did not wish to identified, said if a project for which land acquisition is carried out does not materialise for some reason then there is a provision to reassign the land.
The CM’s letter inviting Baba Ramdev says that the soybean processing unit will not only lead to farmers’ getting a good price for their harvest, the factory will also generate employment. The letter adds that the offer is a part of the state government’s new policy to encourage Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
Vidya Patil, former vice-president of the women’s wing of the Congress, said farmers will not let Baba Ramdev set up his business on the land they gave for a public sector company. “Either the state government should bring BHEL back or it should return farmers’ land. No other deal is acceptable to us,” she said.
Local MLA Amit Deshmukh said his party will not allow any corporate except BHEL to use the land. “Ramdev Baba’s project will be opposed tooth and nail,” he said.
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