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Patanjali not good for trees either! Court pulls up UP govt for the felling of almost 6,000 trees

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 31 August 2017, 13:44 IST
(Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Baba Ramdev and Patanjali does not seem to be good for the trees either. If you thought that a food park and a university, created by none other than Ramdev, would be what the country needs, think again. It seems to be coming up at the cost of almost 6,000 trees.

The Allahabad High Court took a serious cognizance of cutting down of trees on the land allotted to yoga guru-turned-business tycoon Ramdev’s Patanjali Yog Peeth. The land was allotted for educational and institutional purposes.

In the last week of November 2016 the Akhilesh Yadav government had allotted 455 acres of land along the Yamuna Expressway to Patanjali Yog Peeth for a food park and a university.

“The state government has granted 455 acres to Patanjali Yog Peeth for industrial and institutional use,” Amarnath Upadhyay, an officer of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority, was then quoted as saying. The allotment letter has been issued, he said.

One Ausaf and eight other petitioners from Gautam Buddh Nagar, challenged the allotment on the grounds that they were given the banjar land for tree plantation on 22 March 1994, on a 30-year lease.

The petitioners said the Meerut divisional commissioner had resumed (taken back) the land in favour of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority through orders dated 3 June 2017 and 10 July 2017, which allotted the land to Patanjali.

The petitioners claimed that they had planted 6,000 trees on the land many of which had now been axed to make space for construction.

Taking a serious view of the possible felling of trees in such large numbers, a division bench of Justice Tarun Agarwal and Justice Ashok Kumar observed –

“Uttar Pradesh government could compensate one individual whose trees were cut down but how will it compensate the society which is deprived of green cover and healthy environment in the area.”

The government cannot justify its act on the basis that it will adequately compensate an individual, they said.

The court directed all the parties involved in the case to not make any changes on the land till the next date of hearing.

The principal secretary of industrial development has been directed to inform the court about how the Meerut division commissioner resumed the land under a repealed law.

The judges also directed the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar to inspect the spot and submit details of the number of trees there and the number of trees that have been felled. He has also been asked to file a counter-affidavit to explain his stand.

The court asked the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority to show cause under which law the trees have been cut down.

Fixing 4 September as the next date of hearing the court observed that the counsels for the state government and the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority have failed to inform the court about the facts of the case.

Of the 455 acres allotted, 430 acres were for industrial purpose, a proposed food park, and the remaining 25 acres for a university and a research centre. The land is located in Sectors 24, 24A and 24B, just a few kilometres from the Buddh International Circuit.

After Akhilesh Yadav laid the foundation stone for the project from Lucknow in a simulated ceremony on 30 November 2016, Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna formally laid the foundation stone for Patanjali Food and Herbal Park and Patanjali Ayurveda Limited in February 2017.

Speaking on the occasion Balkrishna said that a nine km boundary will be built along the land’s periphery of 430 acres meant for the food park. It is the construction of this wall which may have led to the felling of trees.

The project, Balkrishna had said, would cost Rs 5,000 crore and promised to revolutionise life in the surrounding villages.

Incidentally, Ramdev’s quest for building a land bank in the name of Patanjali did not stop there. In May 2017 a Patanjali offical told the media that the group was looking for 50-100 acre land to set up a Rs 500-crore food project in the drought-hit area.

Besides Poorvanchal and Western Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand is where the new Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi has requested the Centre to set up a mega food park.

First published: 31 August 2017, 13:44 IST