Land allotment delay stalls Natrip’s auto-testing unit in UP

Land allotment delay stalls Natrip’s auto-testing unit in UP

Mumbai: A delay in land allotment by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has stalled a Rs100 crore centre in Rae Bareli planned as part of the National Automotive Testing R&D Infrastructure Project, or Natrip, said a senior official associated with the project.

“When the project was conceived in 2005, we had asked for 400 acres of land from the then Mulayam Singh (Yadav) government. But due to political reasons, the proposal was deferred," said N.K. Trivedi, officer on special duty with Natrip.

“With the new government under Mayawati, which came to power in May 2007, we had expected a positive outcome, but it got worse and despite submitting several proposals, the matter has not gone through," he said.

Also See Natrip testing centres (Graphic)

A senior official at the ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises admitted to the delay.

“We are asking the UP government to give us land. They are considering various options but nothing has happened so far," he said on condition of anonymity, but declined to give a reason for the delay. “I can’t speak for the state government. Wherever, there is a land acquisition process, there are problems."

The Rae Bareli unit, which was to employ 500 people, was one of seven planned by the ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises as part of a Rs1,718 crore project aimed at creating an advanced testing, validation and R&D infrastructure for the domestic, as well as global, automotive industry.

Once operational, the Rae Bareli unit would become the nodal centre for homologation, or road-worthiness certification, for tractors, three-wheelers, construction equipment vehicles; would house a road accident data analysis facility; and have a training facility for at least 1,000 drivers of specialized, off-the-road vehicles. It will also be associated with the National Safety Board, proposed by the ministry of road transport and highways in November 2007, with the objective of undertaking systematic analysis of road fatalities and other crucial aspects related to accidents. About 80,000 people die in road accidents every year in India.

“As the Rae Bareli centre has been planned with the aim of having a scientific approach towards preventing accidents… Rae Bareli project was an important milestone," said Dilip Chenoy, director general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

As part of the project, Natrip was to commission, through September 2011, independent testing centres within the three automotive hubs in the country—at Manesar in Haryana, Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Pune and Ahmednagar in Maharashtra—and a proving ground (for building test tracks) in more than 4,123 acres at Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

However, the ministry is not looking to pull out of the state. “It’s centrally located. Even Bihar, Haryana and Punjab can access the facility, we hence chose UP," said the official, adding that the ministry has given three options to the state government: one is to start the project at a non-functional three-wheeler factory owned by an LML Ltd subsidiary in Rae Bareli, while the other two envisage getting land owned by the state government or non-agricultural land owned by farmers.

“As of now we are actively pursuing for the region. We chose the region as it has a natural synergy. We need the site to be close to the manufacturers and as UP has one of the largest manufacturers of three-wheelers, it was a natural choice," said the person associated with the project.

Natrip has faced similar issues in other parts of the country, in Indore, Pune and Gurgaon, but those have been overcome, said the ministry official. Allotment of land in Pune was delayed because it was in a forest area, while land in Indore was in a non-industrial area.