Another cotton procurement season rolls on Monday but the idea of building Textile Park, a cluster of fabric industry, in the fibre-crop belt of the state remains hanging in the air.
Textile Park is supposed to bring together industrialists and cotton farmers for common financial benefits. However, their conflicting interests have become the obstacles in implementing the idea. Cotton farmers want big industry in the region but they also seek the best deal for their land. The industrialists would like to keep the input cost as low as possible, so they wouldn't like to pay much for space.
"Farmers demand up to Rs. 50 lakh an acre for land, and industrialist seek a lower price," said Chaman Lal, general manager of the district commerce and industrial department. Earlier this year, after several rounds of meetings with the representatives of the textile industry, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had ordered district officials to locate a site in the region for Textile Park.
"We found a suitable land in different villages where the textile-industry cluster could come up," said Chaman Lal. "We looked for the less fertile land. A few industrialists who inspected the site did not get back to us. There is big difference in the land price that farmers expect and industrialists are willing to pay. At the moment, we are busy with other projects."
The concept of building a textile park in the Malwa region is not new, and the government now has been promising it for the past two years. "Textile Park will help farmers get good value for their crop but over the last decade, boom in the real-estate market has also increased the price of agricultural land," said Ashok Kapoor, a trader and cotton expert. "The oil companies who built the refinery at Rama Mandi got land for a genuine price but that was then. Now the land value has increased manifold, which will increase the input cost of any industry."
Farmers are now aware of the true value of their land. "Boom in real-estate sector as well as the agitation over the Gobindpura land acquisition in Mansa district last year has awakened farmers to the power of negotiation," said Manjit Singh Honey, leader of the Bharti Kisan Union. "The government can no longer acquire any farmer's land by force for any industrial project."