The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rethink on Jindal lease

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, April 27: Shocked at the U-turn taken by Jindal industries, which now wants to set up a steel plant in West Bengal, the Jharkhand government has indicated its opposition to grant mining lease to the group.

Jharkhand mines minister Madhu Koda and chief minister Arjun Munda are learnt to have communicated their opposition to their West Bengal counterparts.

A cautious Koda said though any proposal presented by the Jindals would be considered, the government and the chief minister were opposed to what the group seems to want now.

The Jharkhand officials feel betrayed because the Jindals, they claimed, had always given the impression that they would set up the plant in the state.

'We had cooperated with them all along and were on the verge of signing an MoU in December,' said a senior bureaucrat.

The Jindals had declared their intention to invest as much as Rs 12,000 crore in the state.

What came as a shock was the Jindals' fresh offer, unveiled at a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry in Calcutta yesterday, that they would invest Rs 2,000 crore in Jharkhand over a period of time but would like to spend five times that amount to set up a steel plant near Kharagpur on the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

Bengal does not have any deposit of iron ore and both the steel plants in West Bengal, Durgapur and IISCO in Burnpur depend on iron-ore from Orissa and Jharkhand.

Already, the Jharkhand government's decision to cancel the lease of three iron-ore mines leased to IISCO, has strained relations between the two state governments.

West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had hoped to take up the issue with Munda at the CII meet. But Munda pulled out of the meet at the last minute on the plea of technical snags in the helicopter.

There could be many reasons for the Jindals having second-thoughts about Jharkhand.

The absence of a port, poor supply of power, poor law and order situation, political instability, Naxalite menace, corruption in government offices, poor infrastructure and communication and absence of an international airport could have prompted the Jindals to opt out.

Officials here, however, scoffed at such factors and pointed out that the Jindals wanted to set up a captive power plant and hence poor power supply could not have been a consideration. Nor are the officials ready to accept that law and order in the state is so poor that industries cannot be set up.

They also claimed that in discussions, Jharkhand had offered a lot more incentives to the Jindals, which 'cannot be matched' by Bengal. A dry port is also on the cards, they added.

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