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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 25, Dated June 26, 2010
CURRENT AFFAIRS  
amethi

VVIP Constituency

Twilight Zone

127 FACTORIES SET UP. MOST HAVE SHUT DOWN. THE FATE OF NEHRU-GANDHI FAMILY’S POCKET BOROUGH TURNS WITH THE VAGARIES OF UP’S POLITICS, SAYS JAI PRAKASH TRIPATHI

THE TUSSLE between the Congress party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) over the development of Uttar Pradesh continues — either over the inauguration of schemes and projects, or over acquiring land for factories. If the BSP’s agenda for development means the glorification of Dalit symbols, the Congress’ approach is not very different. An example of which is Amethi — India’s most influential Lok Sabha constituency and the Nehru- Gandhi family ’s pet borough — where, over the last three years, they have launched projects worth thousands of crores of rupees. None of these projects though have actually taken off. What is worse is that the existing enterprises in the area — large and small scale alike — that had come up over the last 24 years, are also, one by one, shutting down.

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Desolation row The ruins of the Jagdishpur Cement Factory, Amethi Photo: PRAMOD ADHIKARI

An example of this is the Jagdishpur Industrial Area in the constituency. Situated on the Rai Bareilly-Sultanpur border, 80 km from the Lucknow-Varanasi highway, this industr ial estate was inaugurated by Sanjay Gandhi for the development of both the districts. Although, ever since 1984, various enterprises did come up in the area, they could not sustain for long. Today, there remain only 76 factories of the initial 127. Passing through the area , all that one can see are old dilapidated buildings and rusted boards of businesses that once existed.

As you enter the industrial area from the road to Lucknow, the first locked up factory you come across is that of Malvika Steel. Set up in 1995, this pig iron unit, spread over 25 acres, shut within three years of its inception, resulting in the loss of livelihood for 1,700 workers at the unit. Most of these were local workers. Last year, just before the Lok Sabha election, Malvika Steel was bought by the Steel Authority of India. The inauguration was attended by the AICC National General Secretary and MP from Amethi Rahul Gandhi, Petroleum Minister Jitin Prasada and other Central government ministers . More than a year has passed, yet, work at the factory hasn’t started.

A little further down the road are the remains of the Arif Cement Factory. Set up in 1986, this plant somehow managed to function for a decade, closing shop in 1996. The caretaker, GK Srivastava, says that the workers union was responsible for the shutdown. Most of the workers were locals and, as production increased, the union too began demanding for more. When the plant finally closed down, it was producing 100 tonnes cement a day.

THE INDUSTRIES CAME UP WHEN THE CONGRESS WAS IN POWER IN THE CENTRE AND THE STATE, AND FLED WHEN IT LOST IN UP

Also close by are what used to be three paper factories run by the Agro group. According to M George, a former worker there, the reason for the shutdown was the advent of Chinese-made paper in the market, which killed the demand for the local produce. More than 400 people worked in these units, most of whom now do menial jobs in nearby areas or have headed to big cities like Delhi or Mumbai in search for jobs. Many factories here share the same fate as Agro’s, one of which is Rakshi Petrochem. Set up in 1985, and employing a workforce of 50, this rexine producing unit closed down within two years. Golden Crisps, a processed food unit set up in 1988, also shut down in 1990.

Today, not only the common people, but also the Congress leaders in the area consider the issue of development a mere eyewash. A local Congress leader showed TEHELKA a hi-tech printing press that had been set up in Jagdishpur during the time of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. There were plans of printing lottery and bus tickets at this factory, land was purchased and the plant set up, but work here never began. He further talks about Amethi Textiles, a thread factory set up at the same time that shut down as well.

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Ravages of time The Tara Snacks and Foods factory, one of the many units that have shut down
Photo: PRAMOD ADHIKARI

Just behind the Arif Cement Factory (ACF) there used to be a plant of Avadh oil products. However, neither are there any machines anymore nor a sign of a building that can confirm that this unit, spread over 4.65 acres, once produced 20,000 litres of oil. The owner of a closed down rice mill just opposite the oil plant, Rakesh Upadhyay, says there used to be three 20,000 litre capacity tanks and almost 18 rooms at the oil plant that finally closed down in 2005. Between the ACF and the oil mill is the Jagdishpur Cement Factory, which ran for a mere six years and closed in 1997. Worse, in the name of development, farmland was given out for setting up industry in this area. But the farmers never really benefited from it.

According to Rajesh Mishra, the chief of the local organisation for industrial development, the reason for the closing down of these factories, one by one, was the apathetic attitude of the government. Be it the Central government or the state government, both are not doing anything for industry in the area. He says that when the Jagdishpur industrial area was created, the finance department gave funds for setting up production units. But the state policy was such that finance was only provided for setting up the factories and not running them. “Businessmen somehow managed to set up the factories but they could not get money for the purchase of raw material and other running expenditures. As a result, not only was the money invested lost, the interest on their loans also multiplied, leading to the early close down.” He further says that when businesses did come up in Jagdishpur, people not only from the area but also from neighbouring districts got employment, because of which migration to Mumbai, Delhi, Ludhiana and Surat almost ceased. But conditions have now once again become the same.

THE CHAIRMAN of the Indian Industries Association, Sultanpur unit, Shahnawaz says that departments set up to assist industry also fail to create awareness about government schemes among the businessmen. He further says that bank s have not supported businesses and that the local businessmen bear the brunt of the conflict betwe en the Central and state governments over the issue of development. “Given the government’s negligence, conditions were such that by 2000, most of the factories shut shop, but subsequently there has be en some recovery. However, it’s only small businesses that are coming up — the big industrialists are still keeping away.”

The figures at the District Development Centre, Sultanpur, show more than 50 factories set up between 1984 and 1990 have shut down. Only about 12 factories that were set up in the industrial area during this period are still functioning. From 1991 to date, the 38 new factories that have been set up are only on paper, as 20 of them do not employ more than 4-8 people. The remaining 18 also have a minimal workforce of 10-15.

A part of the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency also comes under another Nehru-Gandhi family seat, Rai Bareilly. The state of industry here is not much different from that in Jagadishpur. On the way from Rai B areilly to Salon is the dilapidated structure of a unit with a rusted board of the Vespa Car Company up front. Sitting at a teashop opposite the factory, Santkumar says that scooters used to be manufactured here and that it’s been 17 years since it closed down. The foundation stone at the plant says that it was inaugurated on September 27, 1984, by Amethi’s then MP Rajiv Gandhi. Matade en, a local, says that land was taken from the neighbouring villages of Bagha, Umri and Bahadurpur for the plant. There are many families in these villages who, although traded their land in the name of development , did not get any employment benefit out of it.

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Junked The remains of the Sona Bread Factory
Photo: PRAMOD ADHIKARI

On the road from Gaurigunj to Rai Bareilly lies the Jayaz Industrial area. Right at the entrance of the area is the closeddown factory owned by the UP Leather Udyog Nigam, once again set up during Rajiv Gandhi’s time. The ow ner of the rice mill opposite this unit says that the factory only managed to function for 3-4 years.

According to a former Congress MLA , when the government began encouraging industry in the area the Congress was in power both at the Centre and the state. This attracted businessmen, many of whom were close to politicians in power. Their sole purpose was to make the best out of the concessions being given by the government. But in 1989, after the Congress lost power in the state, these businessmen also left, after showing losses in their concerns Akhilesh Pratap Singh, the state Congress spokesperson howe ver disagrees say ing, “After the Congress went out of power in 1989, there was a serious electricity problem throughout the state which is the main reason for the shutdown of business.” He says that another rea son is the bad law and order condition in the state. “Under the governance of non-Cong ress parties law and order went for a toss in the state, because of which businessmen felt insecure.”

“There were many reasons for businesses shutting down but the real losers were the locals,” says Congress ML A from Jagadishpur, Ram Sewak. However, BJP state spokespers on Narayan Dixit says that it was the Congress leaders who profited. And as they knew that they couldn’t continue in the same manner after the Congress lost power, they left . “Power supply and law and order are still terrible in UP. Then why is the Congress launching projects worth crores for Amethi and Rai Bareilly?” he signs off.

Translated from Tehelka (Hindi) by Saumya Tyagi

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 25, Dated June 26, 2010

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