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Patanjali Food Park: How Ramdev Used Pull-Out Threat to Push for More Concessions

The yoga guru-turned corporate king is observing double standards by calling for probity in public life while grabbing favours from governments to expand his business empire.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev might have cried his lungs out for probity in public life and he still does not tire of raising his voice against black money and irregularities in government working. But when it comes to grabbing favours from the state, he does not mind observing double standards.

A case in glaring demonstration is the allotment of 455 acres of prime land along the Yamuna Expressway in Greater Noida in the name of setting up a giant food park. Using his ‘Yadav’ identity, the saffron-clad yoga guru-turned-corporate king got the original allotment for his multi-billion Patanjali group on special concessional terms during the tenure of the previous Akhilesh Yadav government. And today, he is virtually blackmailing the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government to get more concessions and privileges.

He is also eyeing a Rs 150 crore subsidy that the Union government has offered to anyone setting up mega food parks across the country.

One tweet by the Baba’s Man Friday, Acharya Balkrishnal has literally brought the entire Uttar Pradesh government into submission. And the Adityanath regime is all set to sign on the dotted line, with Ramdev dictating the terms, with special concessions and favours, well beyond what he had already received from the Yadav dispensation.

What brought an otherwise “tough” UP chief minister Adityanath to fall in line with Ramdev was not just a threat by Balkrishna that he would shift his proposed investment from UP to another state if the terms laid down by Patanjali were not conceded by the state government. That Adityanath would give in so easily to a threat was inconceivable. Evidently, it was also a strong word from BJP president Amit Shah, whom Ramdev met recently.

Strangely, neither Adityanath nor his team of dealing bureaucrats cared to raise the most pertinent question – which Indian state was ready to dole out a huge chunk of 455 acres? And that too on the borders of the national capital.

The fact of the matter is that such a huge parcel of land was given away to Patanjali for a song. The group was required to shell out the official ‘circle rate’ for only 20% of the land. The Akhilesh government granted Patanjali a special concession of 25% in the cost of land for the remaining 80% chunk (about 370 acres). Under the rules, such a concession was available only to the IT industry and that too for setting up a big software technology park . However, Ramdev managed to get the Akhilesh regime to bend the rules for his company

The revision in the terms of land allotment with the freebies and concessions are understood to be high on the agenda of the next meeting of the UP cabinet scheduled on June 12. Credit: PTI

While Ramdev and Balkrishna might be busy blaming the bureaucracy for the “delay” in their “investment” plans, the fact remains that this special concession in the price of land was systematically pushed by none other than the then UP chief secretary Deepak Singhal, now chargesheeted in another matter.

As per the original terms of allotment, Patanjali was allowed to sublease only upto 20% (91 acres) of the land for a period of not more than seven years. But Ramdev is understood to have insisted on relaxation in the original terms of allotment.

The urgency for subleasing 20% of the land arose because of the subsidy of Rs 150 crore offered by the Centre. The subsidy could be given only to the company that was setting up the food park. However, in this case, the original allotment of land in 2016 was made in the name of Patanjali Ayurved, Haridwar, while the proposal for setting up a food park was made by Patanjali Food and Herbal Park Noida Pvt Ltd, two independent corporate entities.

What Ramdev was demanding from the UP government was permission to transfer 60 acres of land in the name of Patanjali Food and Herbal Park Noida Pvt. Ltd. In addition, he wanted that while he set up his food park on 30 acres of land, the remaining 30 acres out of this packet should be allowed to be subleased further to whoever Ramdev wanted anytime later. That is where lies the first catch. Ramdev does not want the first transfer of 30 acres from his one company to the other to be treated as a “sub-lease”.

The second catch lies in Ramdev’s next demand for another sub-lease of 56 acres, which is precisely 20% of the remaining 370 acres’ parcel of land. That clearly gives Ramdev the freedom to play with 116 acres of priceless land along the Yamuna Expressway as against his original entitlement of 91 acres. Once the restriction of seven years on the sub-lease gets lifted, as per Patanjali’s demand, Ramdev would be sitting over a goldmine. And for all you know, the sub-leasing alone could get him the bulk of his much-proclaimed promised investment of Rs 1,410 crore in UP.

Yet the Adityanath government is working overtime to dole out everything that Ramdev desires, ostensibly because of Balkrishna’s threat to pull out their proposed investment from UP. Significantly, this investment figures prominently in Adityanath’s list of expected investments tapped through his own initiative – the much-hyped Investor’s Summit in February last. The revision in the terms of allotment with the freebies and concessions are understood to be high on the agenda of the next meeting of the state cabinet scheduled on June 12.