Shimla: Having got the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on board to do an audit about alleged irregularitiesâ€™ in the sale of a government corrugated carton manufacturing plant, Himachal Kishan Sabha (HKS) has demanded that the irrigated land acquired from farmers for the factory be reverted to the owners.
Talking to reporters, Tikender Panwar, vice-president HKS said with the selling of the plant machinery of the underutilized carton manufacturing plant that was imported from Japan for Rs 28 Cr and sold for a song at Rs 1.08 Cr to a scrap dealer from Pune, we demand that the fertile land bought for setting up the unit in the 1980â€™s be reverted back to the farmers.
The Sabha having agitated the matter in a public interest litigation before the Himachal Pradesh High Court did get CAG to let the court know that the irregularities pointed out would be taken into account when conducting the audit for 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Sanjay Chauhan, HKS member who was also present said that the land was acquired specifically from farmers for the purpose of setting up the carton unit so as to usher in environment friendly packaging instead of the wooden boxes that were used for marketing of apples.
â€œNow with the plant sold, the land should be reverted back to the farmers as the states land use change policy does not allow it being used for any other purpose,â€ said Chauhan.
â€œDesigns to sell out the acquired land for setting up an engineering college would be resisted and the Sabha would launch an agitation,â€ said the duo.
The government has already sold some of this land to Indage, a private wine manufacturer, who never set up the unit that was announced with much fanfare, they added.
The issue also had found echo in the ongoing budget session where leader of opposition Vidya Stokes had termed it a sell out and left apple and other fruit growers at the mercy of private manufacturers.
However, horticulture minister Narinder Bragta on Friday had defended the governmentâ€™s decision saying that the decision to sell the loss making plant was first taken by the previous congress government.
Intervening in the debate, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had said that the decision to sell the factory was taken after deliberations with all stakeholders.