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Bad day for Reliance
Punjab govt refuses land
Chitleen K.Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, November 15
Punjab will not give government land to the Reliance Retail for projects in the state. This was decided at a high-powered meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today.

The decision will be a setback to the Mukesh Ambani-led multicrore company with which the Congress government had inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in August last year. The company expected to pump in Rs 3,000 crore into the state ,was to implement its agricultural produce marketing and processing project this year.

A.S. Chattwal, MD, Punjab Agro-Industries Corporation, who attended the meeting said, “This however does not mean the project would be shelved. Only the MoU would have to be revised and the project recast. The decision ,not to give land to Reliance has been taken in line with the state policy, not to give land to any company for commercial projects.”

Projecting the Reliance Retail would prove a boon for Punjab farmers, the erstwhile government had decided to give 292 acres belonging to the Punjab State Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) at various focal points in Punjab to Reliance on freehold basis for Rs 37 crore. Another 169 acres given by the PSIEC to the Punjab Agro-Industries Corporation for certain projects, was also to be given to Reliance for Rs 4.35 crore.

The Shiromani Akali Dal, then in opposition, filed a public interest litigation plea in the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the deal. The litigant Captain Kanwaljit Singh (now cabinet minister for cooperation) had demanded quashing of the MoU. The PIL had alleged the MoU flouted the state policy on land allotment for industrial and allied purposes as also contravened decisions of the Supreme Court vis-à-vis allotment of land.

Sukhbir Badal had also blasted the deal terming it “a complete sell- out of interests of people of Punjab”. Demanding an explanation from then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for his “restless zeal” in offering government sops to the company, he had alleged, “The decision to sell government land at cost price is shocking beyond belief and smacks of corrupt deals amounting to thousands of crores.”

While Reliance had shortlisted locations for its ‘Reliance Fresh’ outlets at various places in the state, allotment of land to the company had not been done.

“The decision taken today would be sent to the Cabinet for clearance and the company would be told to buy land on its own in the state. Also Reliance would be asked to make the project more farmer- friendly,” said Chattwal. He added all private agri-projects would be encouraged in the state but would have to procure their own land.



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