A new concern for the government

A new concern for the government

Why is the textile park being opposed?

A strategic partnership of the Centre and the state government is constructing a textile park near the Mattewara forest and in the floodplains of the river Sutlej.

There has been opposition to the setting up of a mega textile park in Punjab’s industrial hub, Ludhiana, by locals, environmentalists, and even some political leaders. CM Bhagwant Mann tried to remit the concerns raised by MLAs during Tuesday’s budget session of the state Assembly. Exactly what is the proposal, and why is it facing such stiff opposition?

Under the PM-MITRA scheme, a Mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel Park are to be set up in Ludhiana.

The project will be undertaken jointly by the Centre and the state government on land near the Mattewara forest and the floodplains of the river Sutlej.

As Bhagwant Mann said Tuesday in the Vidhan Sabha, the basic requirement of the project is a ‘contiguous and encumbrance-free land parcel of 1,000 acres,’ for which the Punjab government has identified land in Tehsil Koom Kalan of Ludhiana.

“PUDA has already acquired 957.39 acres of land, and it will acquire the remaining land shortly,” said the CM.


While 463 acres of government land in the villages Ghari Fazal, Haider Nagar, and Garcha have been transferred to the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), another 493.99 acres of panchayat land in villages Sekhowal, Sailkiana, and Salempur have also been acquired.

Captain Amarinder Singh led the previous Congress government that conceived the project in 2020.

The Union Ministry of Textiles has announced that a total of seven such parks will be set up across the country under PM-MITRA with a total outlay of Rs 4,445 crore. In addition to this, the notification states that the project aims to achieve a “sustainable industrialization” that complies with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9.

The proposed project site is located near the Mattewara forest and on the floodplains of the river Sutlej.

Besides being surrounded by Mattewara forest on two sides, it is also bordered by the Sutlej river on one side.

Project opponents fear that the project would not only disrupt the biodiversity of the protected forest but could also lead to chemical spills into the river.

Punjab's Mattewara forest and Sutlej river under threat from upcoming  industrial park

Over 2,300 acres in size, the Mattewara forest is often referred to as the lungs of Ludhiana and is home to peacocks, sambhars, antelopes (nilgais), monkeys, deers, and others.

“The project will not only cause one ecological disaster but multiple ones as well. The project will harm not only the Sutlej floodplains but the biodiversity of the Mattewara forest as well. “Thousands of villagers still depend on Sutlej for water for drinking and other needs,” says Jaskirat Singh, an environmentalist and member of the Public Action Committee (PAC), which opposes the project.

The government claims that the acquisition of land at Sekhowal was smooth, yet authorities have not been able to take possession of it. But when the government officers try to do so, the villagers together resist the move. 

Sekhowal village’s Gram Sabha passed a resolution (in July 2020) opposing this forceful acquisition of their land. They oppose the acquisition of 407 acres of fertile land since it is their only source of income. Some villagers have also filed a lawsuit against it,” said Singh.

A group of residents from Ludhiana has also petitioned the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the project.

During its last hearing on April 8, 2022, the NGT constituted a joint committee consisting of officials from the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA), district magistrate, Ludhiana, and Divisional Forest Officer and asked for a “factual report within two months.”

Delegation meets NGT panel head over industrial park site near Sutlej and  Mattewara forest

We also want to ensure that the ecology in the floodplain zone of the river does not get permanently damaged. Thus we direct that any construction activity in the Sutlej flood plain zone shall be at the risk of the developer,” asserted the NGT.

During the previous Amarinder Singh government, senior AAP leaders, including Bhagwant Mann, Sarvjit Kaur Manuke, Harpal Singh Cheema, and Kultar Singh Sadhwan, voiced strong opposition to the project. In power, however, the AAP government has decided to implement it.

“We had even submitted Green Manifestos to AAP leaders ahead of the Punjab elections, in which our first demand was shelving this project. Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, who helped us prepare the Green Manifesto, is now the AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP. We now expect him at least to raise his voice against it…The site can be used instead for eco-tourism,” said Jaskirat Singh, a member of Punjab Vaatavaran Chetna Lehar, the outfit that prepared the Green Manifesto on Punjab’s environmental issues.

Many MLAs, including Congress’s Partap Singh Bajwa, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Pargat Singh, and AAP’s Hardeep Singh Mundian, spoke out against the project during the ongoing Budget session. Also, Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan intervened to state that he is opposed to the plan and that the CM should reconsider it, even though he cannot participate in the discussion.

Whenever Mattewara forest and Sutlej are damaged, “we all will be responsible for it,” said Pargat Singh.

A letter was sent by Partap Singh Bajwa, the leader of the opposition, to CM Mann, in which he wrote: “The forest cover of Punjab amounts to just 3.67% of the total geographical area. There is a known problem of water pollution in Punjab. My fear is that any project adjacent to forests will further degrade land and water quality in the state and further damage the ecosystem. In terms of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), Mattewara forest is adjacent to Ludhiana, reportedly a city with the highest RSPM levels. There is an environmental problem with this project. Consider this project adjacent to Mattewara, the last green lung surrounding Ludhiana…’

According to Mann, who accused the Congress government of “destroying Mattewara forest” earlier, the project will “attract investments and generate jobs.”

“No river pollution will be allowed at the proposed site,” and “all environmental norms laid down by central and state pollution boards will be followed.”

Security tension after Amarnath Yatra begins.

Amarnath Yatra route to get three-tier security this year | Latest News  India - Hindustan Times

As per Apurva Chand, Union Information and Broadcasting Secretary, this year’s Amarnath Yatra would be “historic” – some 6-8 lakh pilgrims would visit the shrine, “twice as many as ever before.”

In high security, the first group of pilgrims started the Amarnath yatra on Wednesday morning from Jammu after a two-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to a greater threat from militants this year, 3-4 times the usual number of security personnel have been deployed around the yatra, according to PTI. A drone surveillance system and radio frequency identification tags are being used to ensure the pilgrims’ safety.

As per Apurva Chand, Union Information and Broadcasting Secretary, this year’s Amarnath Yatra would be “historic” – some 6-8 lakh pilgrims would visit the shrine, “twice as many as ever before.”

The last time the yatra was held, the government canceled the pilgrimage midway due to constitutional changes in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

One of the most revered pilgrimages in the country is the Amarnath Yatra to Lord Shiva’s cave high in the Himalayas. The shrine attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.

All set: Amarnath Yatra begins from Monday amidst very heavy security -  Oneindia News

As per a legend, when Shiva decided to share his immortality secret with Parvati (Amar Katha), he chose the Amarnath cave in south Kashmir, deep inside the Himalayas.

According to legend, the cave was discovered in 1850 by a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik. Malik was in the mountains with his herd of animals when a Sufi saint gave him a bag of coal. Malik opened the bag when he returned home and discovered that it was full of gold. In his ecstasy, the shepherd ran to the mountains to thank the saint, but he couldn’t find him.

He instead found the cave and its famous ice lingam. In a cleft in the cave’s roof, water trickles from a cleft believed to represent Lord Shiva. The dripping water freezes to form a tall, smooth ice stalagmite. The iceberg reaches its full height in May every year, after which it begins to melt away. By August, the iceberg is only a few feet high.

The Amarnath cave is located 3,888 meters above sea level and is only accessible by pony or foot. In the Himalayas, the cave shrine is accessible via the Qazigund-Anantnag-Pahalgam axis and the Qazigund-Anantnag-Pulwama-Srinagar-Bandipore-Ganderbal-Sonamarg-Baltal axis.

Pilgrims can travel two routes to reach the holy site. Many people take the Baltal route, a shorter 16 km hike along a steep, winding mountain trail from Baltal to the shrine. The hike usually takes one to two days.

The second is the Pahalgam route, which is approximately 36-48 km from the cave and takes 3-5 days to complete. There is a long journey, but it is a little easier and less steep. In the Union Territory, police have advised people to check their vehicles and luggage for foreign objects that could be explosive devices.

Earlier this year, the police found three sticky bombs in plastic lunch boxes near the international border in Kantiwala-Dayaran village of Kanachak, about 30 km from Jammu. Since February 2021, small magnetic IEDs such as these have been discovered regularly.

The Jammu SSP Chandan Kohli said additional forces were being deployed to “totally secure” all places where pilgrims would be lodged, as well as their token and registration counters. Police and other security agencies are putting in place multi-tier security measures to ensure smooth yatra operations.

It is true that magnetic IEDs pose a threat, but we are prepared to take on the challenge,” he said.

Registration For 2022 Amarnath Yatra Begins For Devotees Aged 13 To 75

Despite the elevated threat perception, pilgrims have been welcomed by the administration. Kashmir divisional commissioner instructed officials to display banners welcoming Amarnath pilgrims in all panchayats on the route to the cave shrine in late May.

Although the tourism department and non-governmental organizations install welcome banners along the route, this is the first time the government has specifically requested them.

The yatra progressed unhindered through the years of peak militancy, despite widespread criticism of the diktat.

The first direct attack on pilgrims took place in 2000, when 25 people, including 17 pilgrims, were killed in a militant attack on Pahalgam’s base camp. There were several small and large attacks over the next two years that killed several yatris.

After 2002, there were no major incidents. As a result of the massive protests against the transfer of government land to the Amarnath Shrine Board in 2008, the yatra remained unaffected.

1091827-amar-nath | The Legitimate News

While some parts of the Valley and Jammu were sharply divided along communal lines, mohalla committees organized langars for yatris in Srinagar and Ganderal.

Despite the summer uprisings of 2010 and 2016, peace continued to prevail. As a result of a terrorist attack on a pilgrim bus in July 2017, seven pilgrims were killed.

In the 27 years since 1990, 52 terrorist attacks have resulted in 53 pilgrim deaths and 167 injuries on the annual Amarnath Yatra, according to the government.

Udaipur case now handed over to anti-terror agency NIA

Udaipur murder: Probe handed over to NIA

  After dispatching a team of the NIA to Udaipur in Rajasthan to investigate the murder of tailor Kanhaiya Lal Teli, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) forwarded it to the agency Wednesday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the brutal murder of Shri Kanhaiya Lal Teli committed in Udaipur, Rajasthan, yesterday. An investigation into any involvement by any organization or international links will be conducted,” tweeted the office of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

 As the accused also threatened to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Rajasthan Police invoked charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

 Although the local police have not yet invoked terrorism charges in the FIR, it is likely that the accused, who have already been arrested by Rajasthan police, will be charged with terrorism.

Their phones are undergoing cyber forensic analysis. There is an investigation into whether they are part of an online group that encourages people to carry out lone-wolf attacks on religious grounds. According to a senior police officer, it is being investigated whether they were members of a self-appointed Islamic State group.

Kanhaiya Lal Teli was hacked to death inside his shop in Udaipur on Tuesday by two men who posted a video online claiming it was in retaliation for Nupur Sharma’s comments on the Prophet.  

A second video identified the assailants as Mohammad Riyaz and Ghouse Mohammad, boasted about the “beheading,” and threatened PM Modi and Nupur Sharma with death. In the Rajsamand district, Udaipur residents Riyaz and Mohammad were arrested from Bhim.

The incident sparked arson and protests in Udaipur, prompting the MHA to send the NIA to the city to “explore” whether there was a terror angle and prompted security concerns in other states.

The police reported that Kanhaiya Lal Teli’s son had “mistakenly” posted an “objectionable comment” on Facebook while playing a smartphone game. According to him, he was unaware of the post until some local residents asked him about it.

Hawa Singh Ghumaria, Rajasthan ADG (Law and Order), said an additional 600 police were on the scene, including Additional ADGs Janga Sriniwas and M N Dinesh.

SITs have also been constituted with top officers, including ADG (ATS, SOG) Ashok Rathore and IG (ATS) Prafulla Kumar, an SP, and an Additional SP, to investigate the incident. In addition to imposing prohibitory orders for a month, the Rajasthan government also suspended internet services for 24 hours following Kanhaiya Lal Teli’s murder.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

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