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Centre glare on steel routes

Ranchi, Aug. 20: The Centre has expressed concern at the “tardy” transport infrastructure in Jharkhand and neighbouring Chhattisgarh that could jeopardise the growth of the steel sector in the two states.

Top sources in the Union steel ministry said the ministry is “extremely worried” about the condition of transport in the two states.

“They have to do a lot of planning to improve transport facilities for the convenience of investors who have signed MoUs for establishing steel plants. Unless the transport infrastructure improves, it would be difficult for the investors to operate in these states once they set up their steel plants,” said a senior official who did not wish to be named.

He pointed out that unlike Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Orissa is moving ahead in a planned manner for the implementation of MoUs in the steel sector.

“We have concrete information that the Orissa government has prepared a blueprint on how to connect its different mines and plant sites with roads, rail and ports. They have also drawn up a blueprint for transportation of raw materials and finished products from the sites of the steel plants.

“But in the other two states, not much planning has been done to improve the transport infrastructure,” the official said.

The three states have attracted about 130 MoUs in the steel sector — around 40 in Jharkhand and 43 in Orissa, which, if they are realised, would generate production of about 146 million tonnes per annum.

Joint secretary in the steel ministry, Kumar Arvind Singh Deo, said his department has advised the Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh governments to prepare a plan on improving the transport infrastructure.

“We have told the Jharkhand government that the Union steel ministry is ready to help the state government. We are willing to coordinate with other (central) ministries to improve transport facilities.

“But before that the state government has to tell us what they want to do. Unless that is done, the steel ministry cannot do anything,” said Deo, who was in Ranchi to take part in a two-day symposium, “Sponge iron and Beyond: Focus Eastern India.”

Deo admitted that acquiring land for investors in the steel sector is a challenge for the states.

“This is a problem being faced by all governments. Our suggestion to governments and investors is that both should frame a lucrative rehabilitation and resettlement policy so that those displaced do not feel the pain of being ousted,” he said.

Orissa has announced a rehabilitation policy, widely praised by many, while Jharkhand is yet to do so.

Pointing out that if fructified, the MoUs could generate jobs for one million, including direct employment for 2.5 lakh persons, Deo advised the states to create a pool of skilled manpower.

“In the next three years, the steel sector would require huge manpower and the state governments should prepare to train manpower,” he said.

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