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Maharashtra's solution for farmers' issues is a Patanjali food park!

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:42 IST

Vidarbha region of Maharashtra has always been in the news. But for the wrong reasons such as farmer suicides and the ever escalating agrarian crisis.

Though, the land of oranges and cotton, farmers in the region have been poor for generations, unlike their cousins in Western Maharashtra who cultivated sugarcane and grapes.

The main reason for the pathetic state of farmers in Vidarbha is the lack of facilities to store and process the produce. It had been a long-standing demand of orange cultivating farmers in Vidarbha to provide rapid transport infrastructure, cold storages, and food processing units.

The millions of orange growing farmers had to suffer huge losses as it is a perishable commodity.

Since there is no rapid transport facility for orange, most of the farmers would either sell off their stock at whatever price they got or would be forced to throw away the rotten stock.

With the objective to help farmers out of distress, Maharashtra government has allotted 220 acres of land to Patanjali Ayurved Limited to set up country's biggest food park.

It is going to be the first of its kind food processing facility in Central India and would be double in size compared to the existing food park at Haridwar.

The state government has allotted the land for the food park at Multimodal International Hub at Nagpur (MIHAN). The bhumi pujan of the project was performed amidst much fanfare on 10 September in presence of Baba Ramdev, union surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari, Chief Minister, Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis.

Courting controversy

The ambitious food park and the rate at which land has been allotted for it have been in the eye of controversy.

There have been allegations of rules being tweaked to facilitate the allotment at low rates. However, the CM Devendra Fadnavis had denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, Congress leaders from Nagpur have demanded CBI inquiry into the entire process to allot land to Patanjali Ayurved Limited.

Speaking about the project, Fadnavis said, "It is going to be the world's largest food and herbal park at MIHAN. This food park will end the menace of middlemen and will give the best price to farmers' produce and bring development not only in Vidarbha but the entire state. The government is working hard to set up agricultural processing units as per the area requirements to give the best value to farm products."

He said that the government has set up a textile park in Amravati region for cotton growers adding that such approach is the need of the hour for the total upliftment of farmers.

"The products manufactured in this park would not only reach the consumers all over India but also would be exported in many countries. This initiative will take oranges and agriculture products from this region to the international market," he said.

Patanjali Food and Herbal Park in the 200-acre area will be world's biggest with an investment of Rs 500 cr and will generate more than 50,000 jobs.

The allegations

Meanwhile, former MP and senior Congress leader from Nagpur Vilas Muttemwar has alleged several irregularities in the land allotment and demanded CBI inquiry into it.

"The land was allotted to Patanjali Ayurved Limited at throw away price of Rs 25 Lakh per acre when the market price was to the tune of Rs 1 crore per acre. No industry was allotted land at such a low price at MIHAN till date. In fact, the high land price is the biggest deterrent for industries," Muttemwar said. He alleged that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned Ramdev Baba's favour that he campaigned for them during Lok Sabha elections.

Since such a huge land has been allotted to Patanjali Ayurved Limited at throw away price, the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), which is a nodal agency for MIHAN, has now increased land prices to recover the loss.

"It is atrocious to literally throw away such huge land and then penalise other industries who are willing to come to MIHAN. If such is the case, who would ever come here," asks Muttemwar.

He alleged that the state exchequer has suffered a loss of Rs 170 Cr in the deal.

Defending the decision Fadnavis says, "The concession was given to Patanjali Ayurved Limited as Baba Ramdev has assured to purchase agriculture produce worth Rs 100 Cr from Vidarbha and train 1000 farmers in advanced farming techniques."

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

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First published: 12 September 2016, 12:21 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.