Shimla: The Himachal unit of Communist Party of India (Marxist) has written to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India regarding sale of a public sector company making apple cartons having a worth of around Rs 30 crores to a private party for a paltry sum of Rs 1.08 crores.
Addressing a press conference here the CPI-M State Secretariat leaders Tikender Panwar and Dr Kuldip Tanwar disclosed
that the State government has sold the State PSU, Agro Industrial Packaging India Limited (AIPIL) to a scrap dealer of Nagpur against the wishes of thousands of apple growers and farmers in the hill State.
Giving the background of the factory the CPI-M said the AIPIL had imported and installed a state of the art machinery manufactured by Mitsubishi (Japan) and Simon Box Maker (U.K.) in 1990 to manufacture corrugated apple cartons as an alternative substitute to wooden boxes which were traditionally is use for packaging of Himachal apples.
The then State government conceived this project as a social business model in public sector to introduce and promote modern and green technology for the benefit of apple farmers not only in Himachal but in the entire apple belt of the country.
This PSU for years together had minimized the environmental degradation and had saved the forests besides creating employment opportunities to the local people. Now the government intends to start an ITI with public private participation.
It may be recalled that about a decade back when BJP government with same Chief Minister and Horticulture Minister were in power they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in April, 2000 with a Maharashtra based Industrial House called Indage India to set up a Winery Project (with total processing capacity of 18,000 tonnes per year) at Pragati Nagar and valuable land worth several crore was given free of cost to this Industrial Group.
The project was even granted an excise exemption for 10 years to them while eluding the local farmers with a big publicity stunt of this kind.
Consequently Indage India has not set up any winery Unit till date on the allocated state land but has conspiringly grabbed 28 bighas of flat precious land free of cost which belongs to AIPIL factory.
The left party has said that in any case if the State government is interested in setting up an ITI on Public, Private Participation (PPP) business model then there is sufficient government land vacant available in the surrounding areas of the factory where ITI can be established .
The fact of the matter is that the concerned 28 bighas of land of the AIPIL constitutes as an industrial plot whose
Conversion Land Use (CLU) cannot be altered so blatantly since small and marginal farmers of the factory area sacrificed their collective land some 20 years ago to the State Government for setting up of AIPIL factory for socio-economic development purposes.
The CPI-M has stated that it clearly indicates that some vested interests are behind the shady deal to dispose off the valuable public asset and it is technically difficult to imagine that world class imported heavy duty machinery of AIPIL which has been sparingly used (average operating Plant and Machinery capacity achieved to the extent of 4 to 5 percent) for the past 20 years or so is now being considered and cleared as junk material to facilitate corrupt practices in public life.
KY Singh is a political observer and a senior journalist with an interest in a diverse set of issues related to Himachal Pradesh and other mountain states. He lives in Shimla.