Students of an agricultural college in Gujarat’s Bharuch district have objected to the administration making a helipad on its campus for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to land as the area given for the purpose had standing cotton crops that are required for research.
This is the second time this year — the first was in March — that the College of Agriculture, affiliated to Navsari Agricultural University (NAU), has been told that a helipad needs to be built there. The process of clearing the cotton crops has started.
The students wrote to the Bharuch collector after their complaint to the principal, Dr Kantilal Patel, fell on deaf ears, they said. When asked about the students’ objections, Kantilal Patel said: “The district collector told us they wanted our premises to build the helipad for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s programme, so we gave our land. I don’t want to speak more on the subject.”
Modi is expected to be on a two-day visit to Gujarat on October 7-8 to start off a slew of projects, among which are the laying of the foundation stone for a barrage over the Narmada river at Bhadbhut village and flagging off a train from Surat to Bihar. Both will be done from the College of Agriculture’s grounds.
The portion of land being cleared of vegetation is part of the regional cotton research station, one of only two rain-fed research stations for agriculture in the country.
An official in Bharuch district collectorate said: “Two bighas (approximately an acre) of land was cleared for the helipad and a kutcha road.” Modi’s event here is on Sunday.
Of the total 40 hectares, which is part of the research station, around 10 hectares was cleared for the helipad and a public meeting.
Vice-chancellor of NAU Dr CJ Dangariya said: “Since the Prime Minister is visiting Bharuch, we were told there will be a public meeting on October 8. We told them there are standing crops on the land…. We were told it has to be cleared for security reasons.”
Sources said that at least 28 different varieties of cotton were grown on the field for research.
Zeenal Patel, a third-year student, said: “At the helipad spot, we do research work by culturing new varieties of cotton…. They have built this helipad and damaged the crops. We will not tolerate it. Soon there will be the Assembly elections and helipads will be built on our practical research work for political meetings.”
Second-year student Arpit Patel said: “We carry out latest research programmes meant to benefit farmers and help them get good-quality seeds…. This damaging of standing cotton crops is harmful to both students and farmers”.
The student committee of the college in its memorandum to Bharuch collector Sandeep Sagale said: “This is one of the only two rain-fed research stations for agriculture in the country where projects under ICAR (the Indian Council of Agricultural Research) are ongoing… and three-month-old standing crops have been destroyed to build this helipad.”
The memorandum was signed by the “student committee”.
Sagale said: “We have taken permission from the College of Agriculture authorities, and keeping in mind security and safety, they gave us the land for use.”