Ashok Gehlot: Showering Sops On People

The Hindustan Petroleum Corpo-ration Ltd (HPCL) will soon set up the refinery at Pachpadra, a desert village in Barmer district of western Rajasthan. The HPCL team, after evaluating the two sites at Leelala and Pachpadra, decided to set up the refinery at the latter. The foundation stone laying ceremony will take place in late July and is expected to be attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The Rajasthan government, who is partnering in the project, have approved the recommendation of HPCL, to shift the location.

In fact, the Gehlot government has played its cards smartly. The refinery was to be set up at Leelala which is not very far from the drilling area. But the local people who hardly get any returns from the barren land by way of agriculture were having high hopes that they would get a good deal from the government when the land would be acquired. They were asking for a hefty price for per bigha, presuming that the government would pay them the demanded compensation for acquiring the land. But when it was seen that the local people would not agree for reasonable deal by way of compensation, the refinery site was shifted from Leelala to Pachpadra as the government owns 11,000 bighas of land which it could part with for setting up the refinery.

Col Sona Ram, MLA who is an arch rival of Gehlot, has protested against the decision to shift the refinery from Leelala to Pachpadra. Col Sona Ram said that the people of Leelala, which is part of his constituency Bap in Barmer district were promised the refinery and the farmers were willingly ready to give their land for acquisition, but the Gehlot government betrayed the people.

“The fact remains that the farmers wanted to get areasonable price for barren land and when they insisted on higher compensation, the government has to put to use its own land at Pachpadra. Moreover, HPCL is a partner in the project and they would not have paid such high amount for land. Thus the government offered its own land and above all the logistics at Pachpadra was better than Leelala and that’s how Pachpadra won the race.” Said a government revenue department official.

The people of Leelala are now regretting, they got nothing in the bargain and the venue was shifted which would mean that rather than the people of Leelala it would be the people of Pachpadra about 100 km from Jodhpur who would get the economic benefits.

“This is a god-send kind of a gift to the people of Barmer. The best part is that the refinery is being set up in a place where the oil and gas is found. Thus the locals would get the economic benefit of this refinery. The state government would earn good revenue also and it would pave the way for employment for the locals also,” said Harish Choudhry, MP of Barmer.

Choudhry feels that the setting up of the refinery will help the Congress to sweep the election when the state goes to poll. There are 43 Assembly seats in Marwar region and the development in Barmer would go a long way in helping the Congress and it would win atleast 25 out of the 43 seats. In the last election the Congress won
20 seats.

“The 11,000 bigha land on which the refinery will come up belongs to the state government and there is no need for any land acquisition,” said Sudhansh Pant, secretary, mines and petroleum. The main location of the refinery will be 6 km from the Pachpadra village and this village has several distinct advantage particularly the logistics were better at Pachpadra than at Leelala.

The Pakistan border is 152 km from Pachpadra and 120 km from Leelala. Its just 100 km from Jodhpur, whereas Leelala was 140 km from the biggest city Jodhpur in western Rajasthan. Besides the logistics, the unreasonable compensation demands made by the farmers at Leelala went against it.

Commercial expansion at Leelala, which includes getting water, laying roads and pipelines and developing other infrastructure, would cost Rs 2,500 crore against Rs 1,300 crore at Pachpadra. The extra 28,000 bigha land available in Pachpadra also proved to be a big reason for shifting of the site. The state government and HPCL have signed a joint venture agreement to form a company “Rajasthan HPCL Refinery Limited” likely by mid-July. In the newly formed JV, state government will hold 26 per cent shares while HPCL will have stakes of 74 per cent. The company is expected to start the construction work at the site in the next six months. It is planning to commission the project by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, the state government will start the process of handing over the land to the JV company. The land is presently with the salt department. The revenue department will take over the land and keep it for industrial use. Later, it will be handed over to the industries department which will sell it to the company as per the DLC rates.

In a major loss to the residents of Leelala, the government has approved the recommendation of HPCL, which is a major stakeholder in the refinery, to shift the location. The techno-commercial report found Pachpadra more suitable for the project. “The issue of project location has been finalised. Instead of Leelala, the HPCL felt Pachpadra will be more advantageous,” said Sudhansh Pant. The report presented by the HPCL officials, Pachpadra performed better than Leelala on various counts. The power source from where electricity will be brought is 20 km from the new location while at Leelala it was 46 km away. The international border is 152 km from Pachpadra and 120 km from Leelala. “Our first choice was Leelala as it was under consideration for a long time. We were told that the state government tried its best to reach an amicable solution but it didn’t work out,” said a senior official of HPCL.

“We have extra government land at the new location which in future can be used for expansion. This was not available at Leelala. It is always a priority for the government to ensure that minimum people are affected when any project is setup. At Leelala, nearly 257 families had to be displaced which can be avoided now,” added Pant. For the NH–112 (Pachpadra-Bagundi-Balotra), which is passing through the project site, the state government has requested NHAI for the realignment. “On the 23.7 km stretch from Pachpadra to Balotra, there will be realignment of some 7 km from the point where there is a sharp turn. This will reduce the total length of highway by 1.7 km. PWD will soon write a letter to the NHAI to initiate the process” said Pant.

“The proposed refinery will process the locally available Rajasthan crude as well as other crude. The refinery-cum-petrochemical complex shall be designed to produce motor fuels with latest environmental specifications and wide range of petrochemicals which will have a substantial impact on the economy of the Rajasthan. The project related studies have been carried out by renowned consultants.” said Sudhansh Pant. The proposed refinery and petroleum complex has the potential to become an anchor industry for the developing downstream and other services sector industries in and around the region. He said the proposed petroleum complex will be the first such complex specially designed to produce petrochemicals from the indigenous crude oil. The complex will process 100 per cent Rajasthan crude, however considering the projected availability of the Rajasthan crude, the refinery complex is to be based on 4.5 million tonne per annum (MMTPA) of Rajasthan crude and 4.5 MMTPA of Arab mixed crude. He said the refinery cum petroleum complex will produce Euro IV/V grade petrol and diesel fuel in addition to petrochemical products such as Propylene, Polyethyle, Benzene, Toulenes and Xylenes.

 By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur


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