The farmers in the surrounding villages and their leaders belonging to both the ruling Congress party as well as Telugu Desam, have been opposing the proposal and urging the Government to shift the projects elsewhere.

Our Bureau

Kakinada, Nov. 13

THE raging controversy over the setting up of the proposed oil refinery and special economic zone came into sharp focus here on Saturday at the district review committee meeting, with some of the ruling Congress party leaders and all the Telugu Desam leaders opposing the acquisition of fertile farm lands in the vicinity of the port town for the purpose.

The local MLA of the ruling Congress party, however, pleaded for it.

It may be recalled that the State Government and the ONGC signed a memorandum of understanding recently for the setting up of the refinery and the SEZ in the vicinity of the port, but the exact location was not specified. Ever since, the farmers in the surrounding villages, and their leaders belonging to both the ruling Congress party as well as Telugu Desam, have been opposing the proposal and urging the Government to shift the projects elsewhere.

At Saturday's meeting, Ms V. Geetha, member of the Rajya Sabha, of the Telugu Desam Party, and Mr A. Bullabbai Reddy, Congress MLA from Sampara constituency, argued forcefully for sparing the farm lands.

The farmers in the area had already suffered heavy losses in recent times due to cyclones and they should not be divested of their valuable lands, they pleaded.

Ms Geetha suggested that the refinery be located in the lands, which had already been acquired by the State Government and allotted to several companies for starting units.

"As these companies have not started the units, the land should be taken back from them and used for setting up the refinery. The SEZ could be shifted to somewhere between Peddapuram and Rajahmundry."

Mr Bullabbai Reddy suggested that the less fertile and barren lands in the Thondangi and Kothapalli mandals be used for the two projects and those in the vicinity of the port, falling in his constituency, be spared.

Mr M. Gopalakrishna, ruling party MLA from Kakinada, however, opposed their pleas and remarked that those opposing the projects were "lacking in awareness." He said the projects should be located in the vicinity of the port.

Mr J. Ramamohana Rao, Minister for Roads and Buildings, said no decision had been taken yet on where the projects should be located and there need be no apprehensions.

Ms Sabita Indra Reddy, Minister for Mines, said the notification for land acquisition would be issued only after taking into account the views of all sections. A proper relief and rehabilitation package would be offered to the displaced, she added.

She said technical opinion was more important in locating the projects than local considerations.

While the debate was going on, Ms K. Saroja, Mayor of the town, staged a demonstration along with some corporators in front of the Collectorate pleading for the location of the projects in the vicinity of the port. She alleged that some political leaders, due to vested interests, were opposing the land acquisition.

It is estimated that the projects together need 10,000 acres with an investment of Rs 5,500-6,000 crore for the refinery alone.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 14, 2005)
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