The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Orissa wants more than a stone

Bhubaneswar, July 13: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to the state for laying the foundation stone of a branch of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) seems to have sparked doubts rather than a sense of expectation.

With the spectre of failure, in the form of the aborted Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) oil refinery project at Paradip hanging over the state, politicians and citizens seem to have lost hope in the Prime Minister’s visit, scheduled for Tuesday.

The ambitious Rs 12,400-crore Paradip refinery project has been put on the backburner although Vajpayee had guaranteed its completion while laying the foundation stone in July 2000.

IOC had made a huge splash when it had announced the setting up of a mega refinery project at Abhaychandrapur near Paradip with an estimated outlay of Rs 8,270 crore. Delay in implementation raised the estimated completion cost to Rs 12,400 crore by October 2001. Till March 2003, the company had spent Rs 583.61 crore on the project.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is gearing up to welcome the Prime Minister, but several of its top leaders are sceptical of the proposed AIIMS branch. They have demanded that the Centre first issue a clarification on the oil refinery before laying the foundation stone of the AIIMS branch.

BJD spokesperson Damodar Rout has suggested that the Prime Minister visit the state to inaugurate the regional branch of the AIIMS once it is completed. Party sources said they would like to believe that the AIIMS project will take off but for the oil refinery fiasco.

IOC officials have been stressing that the oil refinery project has not been scrapped, but insiders say it is as good as over.

Congress leaders said the AIIMS branch would meet the oil refinery’s fate as the Centre is yet to provide Rs 1 crore that is required to complete the construction of the AIIMS cancer unit. They said the Centre should clearly state the cost of setting up the institute and give a time-frame for its completion.

“The PM’s visit would only add salt to the injuries,” said Orissa Gana Parishad chief Bijoy Mohapatra.

Referring to the oil refinery project, he alleged that both Vajpayee and chief minister Naveen Patnaik have betrayed the people of the state.

However, BJP state unit president Manmohan Samal said the party was hopeful that the AIIMS branch would be set up.

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