Madhya Pradesh government v/s BHEL over Jamboree Maidan

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh government and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) are again at loggerheads, this time over Jamboree Maidan — 500 acres of prime land in the state capital.

While BHEL wants to set up a solar plant on 100 acres of land and utilise the remaining 400 acres for their expansion plan in future, the state government authorities wish to keep it reserved for mega political functions. In November last year, BHEL board of directors had cleared the proposal to build 10 MW solar plant spread over 100 acres of land on Jamboree Maidan. However, when the work started in December, Bhopal district administration intervened and forced BHEL to halt their proceedings on the ground, contending that they should have taken a prior permission. BHEL raised the issue with Union ministry of heavy industries. Subsequently, secretary, heavy industries, sought intervention of Madhya Pradesh chief secretary to resolve the issue.

Though the land belongs to BHEL, but after the BJP came to power in Madhya Pradesh a notification was issued that no ground can be utilised for any purpose without an NOC from the district collector. “BHEL had to utilise this land for setting up non-conventional energy plant. We have now referred the matter to the Union ministry,” said BHEL spokesperson Vinodanand Jha. State government officials, however, say setting up a solar plant on the ground is not a viable project. “There are only a few grounds in the city for big events. Once a project like solar energy is set up, it won’t be of any use and allotment of any other place for grand functions will lead to various problems,” said a government officer, pleading anonymity.

Already the state government had been pressuring BHEL to surrender unused land so that it can be utilised for other development projects. It is estimated that government will have to spend Rs 2000 crore to acquire land from BHEL. In 2015 too, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had approached the Central government for surrender of 1,125 acres of land lying with BHEL here. He had met Union heavy industries minister Anant Geete in Delhi and apprised him of issues pertaining to acquisition of 1,400 hectares of land for construction of auto testing track in BHEL area, near Bhopal. He had told the union minister that there were Rs 3,000 crore worth of liabilities outstanding against BHEL and several acres of land had also been encroached upon. The Centre has already given sanction to construction of auto testing track near Bhopal. Chouhan said if BHEL wishes to expand its Bhopal unit, the state government is ready to give acquired land free of cost to BHEL.

Madhya Pradesh government is also trying to surrender about 20 acres of land allotted to BHEL’s ancillary units in Habibganj area. Most of the ancillary units allotted land in 1965 are in a bad shape, as the place lacks basic facilities owing to a dispute between state government and BHEL over its ownership. In its letter to secretary, heavy industries, MP government had pointed out that this land should be surrendered to the government to facilitate its transfer to industrialists. In 1965, BHEL invited entrepreneurs to set up ancillary units on this land to cater to its requirements and it was allotted to 14 small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Problem started after BHEL revised licence fee to about 200 times in 1981.