The cancellation of Rahul Gandhi’s pet mega food park project follows a familiar trajectory. Amethi does not have much to show for the attention it has received from India’s foremost political family for 35 years
Rahul Gandhi has alleged that the Centre’s “politics of revenge” has crippled development projects in Amethi, drawing HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s retort that the UPA regime pushed unviable projects in the constituency. Amid the allegations, claims and counter-claims, The Indian Express examines the attempts made during 2004-14 to provide economic ballast to Amethi, most of which failed. The few projects that could ultimately be propped up failed to bring about the promised growth and development. The fate of several projects pushed by UPA 2 in its final months now hang in balance.
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Amethi & Dynasty
Sanjay Gandhi won the primarily rural constituency in central UP in 1980, and the seat has stayed with members of the Nehru-Gandhi family or a loyalist continuously ever since — barring 1998, when the BJP swept 57 of UP’s then 85 Lok Sabha seats. Rajiv Gandhi won in 1984, 1989 and 1991; Capt Satish Sharma in 1996; Sonia Gandhi in 1999; and Rahul Gandhi in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
It was Sanjay who conceived the idea of the Jagdishpur Industrial Estate, which Rajiv eventually developed. Amethi got a major boost during Rajiv’s 1984-89 prime ministership, in the form of-agro based industries, cement factories, petrochemicals and fertiliser plants, and the 1,700 km Hazira-Vijaipur-Jagdishpur (HVJ or HBJ) pipeline. In November 1985, Rajiv laid the foundation stone for the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) in Fursatganj. The Korwa unit of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) got a boost during his prime ministership.
By the time Sonia became Amethi’s MP, a large number of industrial units set up during Rajiv’s time had started to become unviable. The Congress was not in power in either Delhi or Lucknow, and Sonia could not do much for them. In 2004, the year that Sonia handed Amethi to Rahul, the Congress returned to power at the Centre, and efforts began to revive old projects, and to bring new industries and institutes to the constituency.
But the efforts ran into a wall in Lucknow. Attempts to acquire land did not receive a push from the BSP and SP governments, and several projects in both the Gandhi bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli were stuck. These included clearance for 50 acres for the Food Park in Jagdishpur, 125 acres for the National Training and Research Infrastructure Project, 5 acres for an Institute of Hotel Management near Fursatganj, 50 acres for the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, 40 acres for the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, and 65 acres in Jagdishpur for Hindustan Paper Mill.
One major institute that became functional in the 2004-12 period was the Footwear Design and Development Institute near IGRUA in Fursatganj. Some 600 students were enrolled with hostel facilities in 2008. The following year, SAIL purchased the sick Malvika Steel at Jagdishpur for Rs 209 crore.
From 2007 through 2012, Rahul told voters that “his hands were tied” because the Congress did not have a government in the state. Chief Minister Mayawati retorted that Bundelkhand and eastern UP qualified for as many benefits as Amethi and Rae Bareli. Despite Rahul’s exertions, Congress won only 28 of 403 seats in the assembly, and just 2 of 5 segments in Amethi LS constituency.
A last-minute push
Things began to look up a bit after the SP came to power in 2012. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav asked then chief secretary Jawed Usmani to review and clear all pending proposals for projects in Amethi and Rae Bareli. DMs were asked to identify land.
On June 17, 2013, the UP cabinet decided to lease out for 99 years 5 acres of government land for the Central Institute of Hotel Management at Jagdishpur for an annual rent of Re 1. On December 15 that year, an MoU was signed between UP and Jagdishpur Paper Mill, a subsidiary of Hindustan Paper Mills, to set up a factory in the Utelwa industrial area with an investment of Rs 3,700 crore.
In October 2013, Rahul laid the foundation stone for the Shaktiman Food Park along with Kumar Mangalam Birla. The UP government promised to give 72 acres for the park, to be established by the Aditya Birla Group, which also runs the Indo Gulf Fertilisers plant in Jagdishpur.
Just before the Lok Sabha elections, the UP government agreed to forward Rahul’s proposal for a Sainik School in Amethi, along with another in Mainpuri, which was then Mulayam Singh Yadav’s constituency. The Pallam Raju-led HRD Ministry asked the state government for land for a central school in Jais, but UP could finalise the land only last month — and the decision is now pending with the union HRD Ministry.
The NDA government has now made its intentions clear on the Shaktiman Food Park, and there is no progress on the last-minute clearance for Jagdishpur Paper Mill. The fate of several other projects remains uncertain.
Mega Food Park: SCRAPPED
In Sept 2010, Aditya Birla Nuvo got in-principle approval to build a Rs 200 crore Mega Food Park in Jagdishpur. It sought to sub-lease 72 acres from the 800 acres leased to it by UPSIDC; got nod in 2012. It also sought gas at administered price for a captive power plant. In October 2013, Rahul laid the foundation stone for the project — this, according to union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, happened well after the company had been told that it would not get gas at administered price. In June 2014, the company asked the Centre for three months to complete land formalities. In July, the in-principle approval was cancelled on grounds of “inordinate delay in meeting necessary pre-conditions”.
Discovery Park: SCRAPPED
Was to be established by IIIT, Allahabad at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Information Technology, Amethi in collaboration with Purdue University. Work started in 2009, but made little progress. In May 2014, the IIIT Allahabad board decided the park was unviable, both due to a funds crunch and because of its lack of expertise in agriculture, the focus area. But IIIT, Allahabad now says it has been told by the Centre that the park had never even got a final nod.
Infotech Institute: UNCERTAIN
Rahul laid the foundation stone of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Information Technology in the Teekarmafi area of Amethi in 2005, to be developed as an extension campus of IIIT, Allahabad. The central government has now set up a committee under the IIT Kanpur director to examine the feasibility of the campus.