Revenue minister Mathura Prasad Mahto speaks at the policy roundtable in Ranchi on Thursday. (Hardeep Singh)
A senior representative of Essar Steel India Ltd, that was allocated iron ore mines in Ankua reserves of West Singhbhum in 2007, revealed they had not been able to undertake prospecting work to ascertain the quantum of deposits as the area was “disturbed”
A senior official of Rio Tinto was scathing on the state government as their coal mining application was pending since 2005
A Tata Steel representative emphasised the need for speedy clearances of eligible mining proposals
Ranchi, Aug. 23: Corporates tore into Jharkhand government’s inability to create a conducive atmosphere for attracting investments, pointing to delayed clearances, paucity of land and serious concerns over law and order as major stumbling blocks.
At a policy roundtable organised for the first time here by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), representatives of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL), Essar Steel, Tata Power and Australian mining giant Rio Tinto were frank about the pitfalls they faced in Jharkhand, making the most of the opportunity that brought them face-to-face with deputy chief minister Hemant Soren, revenue minister Mathura Prasad Mahto and senior bureaucrats.
While JSPL’s assistant vice-president A.K. Biruly pointed to inordinate delays in getting clearances on forest diversion proposals due to policy hiccups, senior Tata Power official D. Santra revealed that their proposal on the Tubed coal block in Latehar district was suffering a similar fate.
“Identifying/arranging land for compensatory afforestation which needs to be earmarked against the mining/industrial projects is a Herculean task for private companies,” said Biruly.
“The state should have a land bank which would make the process easier. It has always been a vital issue for industries and minimum time should be taken for forest clearances,” he added.
Both Soren and industry secretary A.P. Singh tried their best to defend the state government, referring to the various rules and regulations they were bound by.
But Singh admitted the government needed to be a better facilitator.
A.K. Mishra, additional principal chief conservator of forests, cited Forest Conservation Act, which made it mandatory for private companies and state government undertakings to take up compensatory afforestation on double the forest area proposed for industry.
Only central PSUs, he added, could get away by making a payment.
But Mishra was unable to explain why so many forest diversion proposals of various companies were pending with state or Centre for over two years.
Arun Shukla, a senior official of National Mineral Development Corporation posted in Raipur, agreed that two standards on compensatory afforestation for central PSUs and private companies/state PSUs were undesirable.
“There seems to be a need for a policy decision (on this),” said the former MD of Jharkhand Mineral Development Corporation.
Deputy chief minister Soren said that the state’s experience with central PSUs like CCL and BCCL vis-à-vis environmental protection and benefits for the local population was rarely pleasant.
“The state has a lot of potential in mining and industry. But we cannot allow things to happen at the cost of the environment and locals,” said the deputy chief minister, who handles the mining portfolio.
Among the others present at the interaction were additional chief secretary A.K. Sarkar, who is in-charge of state mines department and planning secretary Awinash Kumar.
Tuhin K. Mukherjee, chairman of FICCI’s mining committee, said today’s event was only the beginning. “Similar programmes for direct interaction between industry and government will be held in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Delhi,” added the MD of Aditya Birla Group company Essel Mining & Industries Ltd.
Later, both Soren and Prasad released a book, Naturenomics 4.0 — optimising bio-diversity and social security in Indian mining areas, brought out by Balipara Foundation that works to strike a balance between concerns of industrialists and environmentalists.