| Jairam Ramesh (extreme right) and other Congress leaders at a meeting in Kendrapara. Telegraph picture |
Bhubaneswar/Kendrapara, Aug. 17: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today accused the Naveen Patnaik government of delaying the Posco steel project.
Ramesh said the Centre had laid considerable emphasis on the venture as it happened to be the country’s biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) project.
“However, the Naveen Patnaik-led government has made a mess of it. It has failed to formally handover the land to Posco. I am told that the state government is insensitive to the demands of the people likely to be affected by the steel plant. The government should take the people into confidence by redressing their grievances so that the mega steel venture gets under way shortly,” he said.
The South Korean company had signed an MOU with the state government in 2006 for establishment of a 12-million-tonne steel plant near Paradip. However, the project has made little progress.
The Congress today held a public meeting in Kendrapara to regain its base in this coastal district, which is generally considered an anti-Congress bastion.
Senior Congress leaders, including Ramesh, minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Jena, AICC general secretary in charge of Odisha B.K. Hariprasad, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena and others addressed the meeting.
Ramesh said Naveen Patnaik government had been showing interest in Vedanta’s bauxite mining project on Niyamgiri hills despite protest by local tribals, including Dongria Kondhs.
“Naveen and his government now stand exposed for its anti-tribal policy following resolution of all the 12 gram sabhas against the bauxite mining project,” said Ramesh, adding that the Congress’s support to the tribals’ cause had been vindicated.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had openly expressed his support to the fight by Dongria Kondhs describing himself as their “sepoy at Delhi durbar”.
Ridiculing the “central neglect” theory of the BJD, the Union minister said the state government had rather failed to utilise Central funds.
“The Centre has allocated Rs 5,000 crore to Odisha for laying out of 12,000-km-long stretch rural roads in the past three years. However, its execution is poor,” he said.
Odisha is the country’s only state, which is facing a CBI probe for corruption and irregularities in implementation of the Centre’s flagship poverty alleviation scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, said Ramesh.
Taking up from where Jairam left, Jena said: “The Naveen Patnaik-led government has turned into a monument of corruption. Ruling party leaders have built fortune for themselves by looting the mineral resources. They have gobbled up Rs 4 lakh crore from illegal mining. Rich have got richer while poor have got poorer under 13 years of misrule by Naveen. The fact that 60 lakh families live below the poverty line in the state amply indicate that fruits of government’s social security schemes are eluding majority of people.”