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Home truths prick biz bubble

- CM push for investments belies land & clearance hurdles

Ranchi, Nov. 27: Chief minister Hemant Soren’s efforts to hard-sell Jharkhand as an industry hot spot at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) meet in New Delhi on Monday may come a cropper, given the state’s miserable track record in getting big-ticket projects off drawing boards.

Yesterday, when Hemant returned to Ranchi after his two-day Delhi tour, a senior official of ArcelorMittal, the company that signed an MoU with Jharkhand in 2005 for a greenfield steel project, spelt out some home truths.

“ArcelorMittal is yet to get stage I clearance for Karam-pada iron ore reserve in West Singhbhum district,” said the official.

“The matter is hanging fire for over three years at the level of state and central governments. We are still waiting,” the official added.

Jharkhand had signed over 100 MoUs in steel, power, cement, aluminium and other sectors between 2003 and 2007, of which over 30 got cancelled last year due to poor progress.

ArcelorMittal changed sites thrice, from Torpa-Kolebira area of Khunti and Gumla districts, followed by Kasmar-Petarwar and finally Chas, both in Bokaro.

In Chas, the process of land record verification has been going on since the past year.

Tata Steel’s 10mtpa steel plant, a greenfield project, was supposed to come up at Tontoposhi, neighbouring Seraikela-Kharsawan. But, nothing concrete happened.

Jindal Steel Plant Limited’s proposed Asanboni project near Jamshedpur in East Singhbhum is stuck due to land acquisition problems. The company was lucky enough to get 550 acres in Patratu, where erstwhile Bihar Alloys and Steel Limited (BASL) existed. They started production from 2011.

Of the proposed 6mtpa capacity of the wire and rod mill, the company has produced 1.8mtpa. The company is proceeding with caution as they have to export iron ore from Chhattisgarh, “a costly affair”, since forest clearance of their proposed captive mines in West Singhbhum is hanging fire.

The former CEO of JSW Steel Limited, R.P. Singh, told The Telegraph that Jharkhand’s outlook, as far as big-ticket investments are concerned, didn’t look positive.

“For instance, steel plants require a sizeable chunk of land. A proactive and strong government is the need of the hour to push land acquisition bids by companies. But past and existing political regimes are not up to the mark,” he said.

Singh may have hit the nail on the head. Industry secretary Vandana Dadel, who has recently taken over from A.P. Singh (now finance secretary), played safe when asked about what the state needs to do.

“We are committed to extend every help to industries. There are pending issues that need to be resolved. Companies also need to be very proactive,” she said, without spelling out what defines being “proactive”.

During the Delhi summit, Hemant also tried to paint Jharkhand as a tourism and agriculture hub. But both sectors are largely neglected in the state.

Jharkhand High Court, acting on a tourism PIL, asked the state government to explain why even basic facilities such as washrooms and drinking water kiosks are missing from scenic spots.