| Villagers protest against the proposed Posco steel plant in Jagatsinghpur. Telegraph picture |
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 11: A veil of secrecy shrouded the meeting between senior Posco officials and two senior bureaucrats here today.
Government sources neither disclosed the names of the officials nor what transpired in the meeting which was held at the state secretariat. The company’s controversy-ridden steel project near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district remains a cause if concern for the government.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik was not in the capital when the Posco delegation came calling at the secretariat. They were closeted for about 30 minutes with chief minister’s principal secretary A.P. Padhi and his private secretary V.K. Pandian.
Pandian described it as a courtesy call during which nothing significant about Rs 52,000-crore project was discussed. However, sources said that a raft of issues including land acquisition, which was discontinued on February 5 following tension in the project area, were discussed.
Though steel and mines minister Rajani Kant Singh, who was also away from the capital, feigned ignorance about the meeting, he favoured peaceful land acquisition.
“We will go about it in a phased manner and handover the acquired land to the company,” said Singh.
Sources said that out of the 2,700 acres required for the scaled-down Posco project, the government has already acquired about 2,100 acres. Of this, 546 acres have been transferred to Posco and the rest will be handed over to the company in a phased manner.
Government officials said that the remaining 600 acres of land for the project would hopefully be acquired over the next six months.
The chairman of Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Limited (IPICOL), G. Mathi Vathanan, said: “A committee has been constituted to look into the problems of projects in the steel sector. This would include Posco.”
However, reports from the project area in Jagatsinghpur district indicated that more people, following persuasion by the government, were willing to part with their land.
In fact, a section of Gobindpur residents have sought for resumption of land acquisition at the site irrespective of the agitation being carried on by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.