Though chief minister Vasundhara Raje said recently that the state government would ink a fresh MoU for setting up a refinery in Barmer, people of western Rajasthan take the announcement with a pinch of salt.
On March 30, the chief minister announced in the assembly that the MoU for the refinery would be signed in April with the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL).
Ahead of the 2013 assembly election, the previous Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot had inked an MoU with the HPCL to set up the refinery with a capacity of 9 million tonnes per annum, raising people’s hopes in the desert district.
After coming to power, the Raje government reviewed the project. The CM claimed that renegotiation with HPCL led to reduction in the loan burden from ₹3736 crore per annum to ₹1123 crore.
Raje said she didn’t wait for assembly polls, due in November next year, to make the announcement, accusing the Congress of declaring the project in a hurry to reap electoral benefits.
People in Barmer, however, think Raje’s announcement is also aimed at gaining political mileage. “Signing of MoU will take time, and laying the foundation stone will take more time. There’s no deadline for completion of work,” said Jaisalram Kharwal, a resident of Barmer.
Om Bhatiya, a member of the district council, said the Gehlot government, while laying the foundation of the refinery on September 22, 2013, had claimed that the project would be completed in four years. “We believed the government and started dreaming of a better future, but what happened, where is the refinery?”
A look into past projects lends credence to people’s apprehensions.
In 2003, Gehlot had laid the foundation of a mega drinking water project -- Barmer Lift Canal -- claiming that it would be completed in three years. Raje, who won the 2003 polls, put the project on hold.
In 2007, Raje again laid down the foundation of the project, accusing the Gehlot government of not making budgetary allocations. In 2008, the Congress formed the government. In August 2012, Congress president Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the incomplete first phase of the Barmer Lift Canal project. Other three phases still wait for funds.
The UPA government had claimed that the first session of the Barmer medical college would start from 2017. Now it has been deferred to next year as the college building work is going on.
Referring to the fresh MoU for the refinery, Manoj Gujar, a political activist, said, “This time it is a case of once bitten twice shy.”
He said people invested in real estate after Gehlot announced the refinery, hoping that prices would shoot up. “For the past three years, most of them are facing the worst situation; their dreams have gone sour,” said Gujar who also deals in real estate.