Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Monday accused Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi of spreading a “mega untruth’’ on the mega food park project in Amethi and said the project had not been given permission even by the previous United Progressive Alliance government as it did not fulfil the criterion even after four extensions since 2010.
Reacting to Mr. Gandhi’s charge in Amethi about the National Democratic Alliance indulging in “politics of revenge’’ in cancelling the project, she alleged that the Congress leader was “misleading farmers and had taken advantage of the electorate’’.
“I am happy my ministry ended the policy paralysis that had gripped the UPA,’’ she said in answer to a question on the issue at a press conference where she announced approval to 30 cold chain projects and completion of three mega food parks in Karnataka, Punjab and Assam.
“A foundation stone was laid on the eve of Lok Sabha elections in Jagdishpur in Amethi when even land was not made available for the proposed project. Not a pit was dug nor a brick laid. The previous UPA government had issued a show cause notice to the promoters as to why the permission for the proposed project should not be cancelled. To cancel the project was decided during the Congress regime when the promoters were told in March 2014 — before the NDA came to power — that they would not be given any more extension. No other food park was given that many extensions,’’ she said.
Ms. Badal said she had tried to explain the issue in the recently concluded budget session of Parliament but opposition Congress members “who had not done their home work’’ refused to listen and tried to make it into a political issue.
According to the Minister, claiming “unique advantage’’, the promoters, Indo-Gulf Fertilisers, had given a business model for a food park on the land allotted for fertiliser plant, based on power generated from a captive power plant. They sought subsidised gas for the power plant for which the Petroleum Ministry did not give permission. "The revenue model was to generate power from the captive power plant which would be sold to the grid. The proposal was to sell majority of the power for profit. It was not about Food Park or farmers but selling power generated at a low cost at a high value. This is the reason the project was not considered viable and kept in a limbo.’’
Accompanied by Minister of State Niranjan Jyoti, Ms. Badal said the priority of her Ministry is to link farmers with industry and create modern infrastructure to lower post-harvest wastages. India is the third-largest food producer in the world yet 2.2 per cent is processed.
“The timely completion of 14 integrated cold chains and mega food parks will not only boost growth of infrastructure but help in providing better price to farmers, reduce wastage of perishables, add value to farm produce and create employment especially in rural areas,’’ she added.