Bhubaneswar, March 29: The proposed special economic zone (SEZ) project to be set up by the Tata Group near Gopalpur port in coastal Ganjam district still hangs in limbo.
Steel and mines minister Padmanabha Behera today told the Assembly that the Tata group had submitted a proposal to convert 2,500 acres, out of the 3733.464 acres it had acquired for a steel plant in Gopalpur around 10 years ago, to an SEZ.
The state government had forwarded the proposal to the Centre for approval, but it remains pending still, said Behera. “If the Centre rejects the SEZ proposal, we will think of alternatives,” said Behera, while responding to the demand for getting back the land that the Tatas had acquired for the steel plant.
Sources said the Centre had objected to the Gopalpur SEZ project on security grounds, as the site is located close to the Missile Training Institute. However, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had assured that his government would follow up the matter with the Centre.
Referring to the government decision of not acquiring land for SEZs in the wake of the Nandigram violence in Bengal, former minister and BJD MLA Damodar Rout wondered how the government recommended for SEZ plots where cultivation was still on.
Replying to it, the minister said kewda cultivation had been taken up on the land acquired by the Tatas. “But I don’t know if the cultivation had been undertaken by the Tatas or the local people,” he said.
In what could be more ominous signs for the Tatas, the government has decided to drop the SEZ for metallurgical-based engineering and downstream industries, proposed to be set up over an area of 250 acres in Kalinga Nagar.
Confirming this, industries minister Biswa Bhusan Harichandan said the decision was taken for the “time being”. He, however, clarified that it had nothing to do with the Nandigram incident or the law and order situation in Kalinga Nagar. “This was due to an internal problem of the state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, which has been entrusted with developing the area,” he said.
The Kalinga Nagar SEZ was one of the five projects cleared by the board of approval of the Union commerce ministry. Eight other SEZ proposals had received in-principle approval from the Centre.