Ludhiana, June 29
Residents of Sekhowal village and environmental activists associated with different organisations are opposing the AAP government’s decision to set up a textile park near the Mattewara forest and the Sutlej.
When a plan was introduced to set up a modern industrial park in around 1,000 acres of land in different villages near Mattewara forest and the Sutlej during the regime of the previous Congress government, AAP leaders, including Bhagwant Mann (now Punjab Chief Minister), Kultar Singh Sandhwan (now Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha) and others, had raised questions over the project and the then government as well.
Now, AAP leaders are being accused of changing their stand on the issue by allegedly ignoring the environment concerns and voices of those people who have been opposing the proposed industrial/textile park project since 2020.
Kashmir Singh, a resident of Sekhowal village, wherein the panchayat land was acquired for the industrial park, said he had already moved the Punjab & Haryana High Court against the acquisition of the panchayat land for the project.
“Several villagers were dependent on the panchayat land as they used to grow crops on the land for sustenance. We don’t want any textile or other industrial park be set up there.
We want that the panchayat land should be returned to the village,” he said.
“When the Congress government had started the move to acquire the land, our village Gram Sabha had approved a resolution, refusing to give the land to the government. But, 416 acres of land of Sekhowal was acquired forcibly by the then Congress government. AAP leaders had raised voice against the project and the then Congress government. Ignoring our voices, now the AAP government is following in the footsteps of the previous government to set up industry on the land. If the industry is set up on the Sekhowal land, around 70 families, which were dependent on the same land, will be displaced. No industrial project will be allowed to set up in the village”, Kashmir said.
Talking to The Tribune, Sekhowal Sarpanch, Amrik Kaur said that when the land of Sekhowal was earlier acquired, the government authorities had then promised that 250 acres of land would be purchased for Sekhowal villagers, but nothing had been done.
“Villagers want that the industrial park should not be set up on the village land,” she said.
Sukhwinder Singh of ‘Sath’, a students’ organisation that had launched a campaign in 2020 against the proposed industrial park to be set up near the Mattewara forest, said after coming into power in the state, the AAP had totally changed its stand on the proposed industrial park cleverly.
He said: “Earlier, AAP leaders, including Bhagwant Mann, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, Sarvjit Kaur Manuke and others, used to oppose the then Congress government for acquiring the panchayat land for the proposed industrial park. Instead of cancelling the project, the AAP government is supporting the project now. We want that the AAP should clarify whether its stand was wrong during the regime of the previous Congress government or now. We also want that the government should clarify which textile industry does not use any chemical as the government claimed that the textile park will not cause any pollution?”
Kuldeep Singh Khaira, a member of the Public Action Committee (PAC) that was formed to save the Mattewara forest and the river, said: “To mislead the people, the name of the proposed modern industrial park has been changed to Koomkalan Textile Park. But, the project site is same near Mattewara forest and the Sutlej. If the textile park is set up at this eco-sensitive area, it will be harmful for the forest and the river.”
Kapil Arora, another member of the PAC, has already moved the NGT, demanding that the proposed industrial project should not be set up on the floodplain area of the Sutlej.
In the Vidhan Sabha, the Punjab CM recently stated that no river pollution would be allowed in the proposed textile park project and all environmental clearances and norms would be adhered to.
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