The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mining meet gives east the miss

Calcutta, Nov. 5: The seminar was on ‘The Role of the Metal Industry in the Resurgence of the East’. But none of the speakers, except for Prashant Ruia of Essar Steel, referred to the east even as Bengal industry minister Nirupam Sen flaunted the advantages of investing in the metal sector because of the proximity to raw materials in this region.

Though Ruia referred to the east, he made it clear that his company has no plans to invest in the east because of high transportation cost and a lack of demand in this region.

The seminar, organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), was addressed by almost all the industry captains from the ferrous and non-ferrous sectors.

Speakers like Tata Steel managing director B. Muthuraman and Steel Authority of India chairman V. S. Jain spoke on the global growth pattern vis-à-vis the Indian experience on the buoyant steel sector.

“If China can achieve a phenomenal growth in steel, why can’t India where the per capita steel consumption is less than 30 kg' I expect a 9 per cent domestic growth in this sector in the next five years paving the way for fresh investments,” Jain said.

Muthuraman, who has a penchant for throwing light on how to take on the global players in the cut-throat competition, sounded philosophical while referring to the situation in the steel industry for the last 30 years. “The industry could hardly have any attention from the people or even job seekers since it had been in shambles. Our effort should be to build up its image, which is currently in a good shape,” he said.

Vice-chairman of Jindal Iron & Steel Co S. K. Gupta said the country’s per capita steel consumption should be at least 540 kg in the next 15 years if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Vision 2020 has to be achieved.

The speakers entertained a number of questions during interactive sessions, without giving any investment commitment to the east. Desperate, a member from the audience asked Ruia whether firms like Essar or Jindal would like to make an investment in the state’s metal sector. Ruia replied in negative.

Coal block bids

The Bengal government has received 20 applications for leasing out five coal blocks under joint venture in response to an invitation for expressions of interest in August. “After shortlisting, 15 names had been sent to the Centre for clearance,” said Sen.

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