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Tata town, all over again

Jamshedpur, Oct. 2: Townships accompanying large industrial projects may not be in fashion as much as in the days before liberalisation, but the Tatas will build another Jamshedpur.

Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda announced today that Tata Steel had chosen the spot ' Tontoposhi, around 30 km west from here ' to set up the country’s largest integrated steel plant of 12 million tonnes. Just as in Jamshedpur, there, too, a township will come up, spread over 10,000 acres.

Established in 1907, the Jamshedpur township, in its present form, is only 500 acres larger and its steel capacity 5 million tonnes.

Just for comparison, the industrial zone the Indonesian Salim group is proposing to build in Bengal is only about 2,500 acres. A township, planned at Dankuni, is just over 5,000 acres.

Munda made the announcement after a survey from the air with Tata Steel managing director B. Muthuraman.

A Tata Steel official said: “The company has always been shouldering its corporate social responsibility. We shall provide our employees at the new plant with housing and other facilities. That is precisely the reason we are looking for over 10,000 acres.”

Townships that are coming up now are designed as real estate projects ' unconnected to industry ' developed by the government or privately.

Unlike in the Nehru-Indira Gandhi days, when the public sector and some private companies took upon themselves the task of building infrastructure around their area of operation, it is now the government that is expected to perform the role.

Tontoposhi, the site chosen, has no infrastructure to support industrial activity.

Tata Steel sources said the company picked Tontoposhi because it is close to two railway stations, Gamharia and Sini. Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers pass through the area, providing a source of water for the plant.

Munda said: “Most of the area falls under either government or raiyati (private) land.” Tontoposhi also happens to lie in his constituency.

The Tatas kicked off a week of action Jharkhand in its short life has not seen before. Steel magnate L.N. Mittal is expected in Ranchi on October 8 to sign an agreement to set up a 12-million-tonne steel plant.

“Mittal has agreed to work here on our conditions,” Munda said. That should mean no iron ore export.

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