GUJRAT: The establishment of long-awaited Phase II of the industrial estate area in Gujrat faces yet another delay as the Punjab Small Industries Corporation (PSIC) has recently withdrawn the notification issued earlier for the project’s execution at the previously selected site falling in three different villages near Kunjah town on Gujrat-Sargodha road.
However, the PSIC has also issued directions to the Gujrat district administration to select another site for the establishment of the facility for the local industry as funds for it are not withdrawn, and the project will be executed at some other appropriate location.
The former PTI-PML-Q coalition government in Punjab had approved a sum of Rs1.3 billion on the recommendation of the then MNA Moonis Elahi for the establishment of Phase II of the industrial estate area in Gujrat in 2021-22.
A huge chunk of 200 acres of land had been identified for the project falling in three villages of Saroki, Chak Qazian and Sheikh Qureshian near Kunjah and a sum of Rs400 million was allocated for the land acquisition.
The land revenue department had imposed section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act in the area after which the land was mutated to the PSIC and the authorities had also taken the possession of the land. However, the farmers had refused to accept the payments for the acquired land.
It is learnt that the local farmers had approached the former federal minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain to get the notification issued for establishing the industrial area on agricultural land cancelled. As per sources, Mr Hussain has played a pivotal role in cancellation of the site for the project.
Earlier, the local farmers had also moved to the Lahore High Court against the execution of the project on their agricultural land.
Though the farmers have expressed satisfaction over the withdrawal of the notification and took out a rally in favour of Salik Hussain, the local business fraternity have expressed their serious concern over the development.
The Gujrat Chamber of Commerce and Industry GTCCI leadership has been of the view that the project has already been facing delays on one pretext or the other for the last three decades and the PSIC decision may cause an inordinate delay in its execution.
Both federal and Punjab governments have also spent huge funds on developing the road infrastructure in the area to approach the project site, whereas the provincial government had also established a new police station naming it ‘Industrial Area Police Station’ which has been functional for over a year.
Deputy Commissioner Safdar Hussain Virk told Dawn that after the cancellation of the notification by the PSIC, the land revenue department had returned the possession to the land to the affected farmers.
However, he added that now the matter has been referred to the Punjab Board of Revenue (BoR) through the Commissioner’s Office for the cancellation of the award or mutations that had been made in favour of the PSIC after which the ownership of land would again be transferred in the name of these farmers.
The DC said the PSIC had also issued directions to the local administration to identify or propose alternate sites for the project on the city outskirts, as funds for the land acquisition had not been withdrawn since there were some court directions against use of agricultural land for industrial purposes.
He said the concerns of the business community would also be addressed through speedy selection of the new project site to avoid any further delay in this regard. The land revenue department had already initiated its working in this regard, he added.
An official source said that a huge chunk of barren land located near Mehsm and Bamta villages on Bhimbher road might be proposed for the project as the site was located close to the under-construction Kharian-Sambrial motorway, an extension of Lahore-Sialkot motorway (M-11).
It is learnt that Gujranwala commissioner has also inspected the proposed site on Bhimber road that also has a natural disposal channel for the industrial waste.
Published in Dawn, September 23th, 2023