With 2014 Lok Sabha elections inching closer, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday played a dream merchant for farmers, promising to change the face of Amethi and make the region an agriculture hub.
“We want to make this region an agriculture hub – it will be a true joy for us when the region becomes an agriculture hub - (agriculture hub banega to maza aayega), said Rahul while addressing a public meeting after laying the foundation stone of Shaktiman Mega Food Park being set up by Aditya Birla Nuvo at Jagdishpur here.
Besides laying foundation stone of the mega food park that he said would benefit 40,000 farmers and provide 2,500 direct and 25,000 indirect jobs, Rahul also said the much-awaited Hindustan Paper Mill would soon be set up in Jagdishpur.
“We have won this battle. This will provide employment to nearly 10,000 people,” said Rahul in an obvious reference to the obstructions caused in the way of the paper mill project during the BSP regime. He, however, refrained from making any direct political attacks.
Leading industrialist and Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Rajashree Birla were present at the foundation stone laying ceremony.
Speaking on the occasion, Kumar Mangalam Birla referred to the close association of his family with the Nehru-Gandhi family saying: “Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi had inaugurated the Indo-Gulf Fertilisers in Jagdishpur in the presence of his father late Aditya Vikram Birla in 1988. Now, Rahul Gandhi is laying the foundation stone of Food Park here.”
He said about 35 food processing units would be set up in the food park that would provide remunerative prices to farmers and generate revenue of Rs 450 crore to Rs 500 crore.
When Rahul rose to speak he referred to Kumar Mangalam Birla’s observations about close relations between the two families to strike an emotional chord with the people. Rahul said the people of Amethi were also part of his family.
“So you (Kumar Mangalam Birla) have relations with this family as well.”
Rahul began his address asking the people about the market price of potato and compared it to the price of branded potato chips.
“How much is the price of potato?” asked Rahul. “It’s Rs 10 per kg,” shouted someone from the crowd while some others said “it’s Rs 6 per kg.” Rahul thereafter asked: “What’s the price of 1 kg potato chips.”
As the crowd shouted it’s Rs 400 per kg Rahul said, “I know those who work hard in this chain get least (price). I want you to get maximum out of this Rs 400 per kg price.”
“UP is among the largest producers of mango, menthol and gooseberry (aonla). I want most of these products processed in Amethi once it’s made an agriculture hub,” he said.
“Most of the UP’s mint is exported. It’s processed abroad and we buy it back. I want this processing to take place in Amethi,” said Rahul.
He referred to his visit to Bangalore to make his point that setting up of the HAL was behind the success story of the IT town.
“HAL was set up there about 60-70 year ago. Now, it forms the foundation of other industries there,” said Rahul.
Union minister of state for food processing industry Charan Das Mahant said the food park would help farmers in saving their produce from going waste.
About 30% of farm produce rots before reaching the market, he added.