Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced in the last budget that a Fintech Park would come up in state capital Jaipur, attracting investment of about Rs3,000 crore. Over four lakh sq metres of land near the airport, adjoining the B2 Bypass and Tonk Road, would be allotted for it.
“Many chartered accountants and IT professionals belonging to the state are working nationwide, have set their base in other cities like Noida, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata etc. and Rajasthan is willing provide them with a base in their home state,” Gehlot, who also holds the finance portfolio, said.
Over 300 concerned citizens have now written to Kuldeep Ranka, chairperson of the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO), asking that what used to be the village of Dol Ka Bagh, which now falls within the boundary of the state capital, should ideally not be the site of such a massive construction project – it is currently occupied by birds of different species and what exists there is thick vegetation; nearly 40 hectares of this former village now falls under the area earmarked for the Fintech Park. The Dravyawati River flows nearby and water fowl frequent the area.
“It may be noted that as recently as four years ago, when construction work started along the Dravyawati River, several hundred trees were cut,” the letter writers, among whom are business people, former defence personnel, a baker who bakes with organic produce, environmentalists, lawyers and students, said.
Jaipur is listed by Unesco as a World Heritage City. Besides its widely renowned built heritage, tourists enjoy bird-watching in and around the city. The Jhalana forest conducts a leopard safari. Nahargarh Biological Park too is a spot rich in biodiversity. It is rare for cities to have such rich biodiversity, and this needs to be preserved, the letter states. A large number of student clubs are organized around bird-watching, and there are regular amateur bird-watchers who alert wildlife staff to rare finds.
The letter writers have appealed to the state government to desist from snatching the green lung of the city. Jaipur Development Authority keeps planning to plant more trees, even as RIICO sets about destroying the forest, the letter states.
The letter writers ask why Fintech Park could not have been planned elsewhere – Jaipur has more than 40 industrial areas in four zones; many of the structures that have come up in these areas now lie vacant, and there are no jobs generated or investments. Given that the coronavirus pandemic has taken such a huge toll on jobs in the past year, investments are not likely to flow into Fintech Park for a while, the letter states. During the tenure of Vasundhara Raje as chief minister, ahead of the last state assembly elections, several schemes for promoting IT and start-ups fell flat – Bhamashah Techno Hub was constructed, at a cost of about Rs500 crore, but it failed to get start-ups started.
If bulldozers and excavators begin work, the protest will intensify, the citizens have warned.
Rosamma Thomas is a freelance journalist