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CCL to fund road network in red zone

Ranchi, Feb. 3: The economic meltdown doesn’t matter. At least to “mini-Navratna” Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) which has loosened its purse strings to invest Rs 575 crore for building 450 km of roads in the Maoist belt.

Both a social as well as business move, CCL’s decision to prioritise its ambitious road plans was based on feedback that its long-pending open cast mining projects — Ashoka, Magadh and Amrapali — would now receive forest clearances with the state under President’s rule.

The PSU, granted mini-Navratna status by the Indian Department of Public Enterprise, now wants to kickstart its road project so that the network is ready by the time the mining projects are commissioned.

CCL chairman-cum-managing director R.K. Saha told The Telegraph that they had tried to persuade the Border Road Organisation (BRO) to take up the job. “But the BRO declined because it is busy with other projects for the next two years,” he said.

“However, we have requested the government to take up the issue with the BRO and help us expedite the job.”

One of the early pioneers in mining, CCL is a leading supplier of coal to the power and steel sector.

Saha explained CCL’s road project hoped to serve two purposes — primarily, create a network of roads in the coal field area and link them to the main arteries in the districts of Palamau, Hazaribagh, Ranchi and Chatra.

Its second purpose was to provide employment opportunities.

“Since these are rebel pockets, we want to offer villagers employment — honest means of living, and wean them away from Naxalite influence. Also, we hope the projects will open new vistas for the development of the region,” he said.

“We are keen on the BRO for the sake of transparency. Moreover, we believe their job would be better than others. In case, it refuses again, our second option would be Sainik — a construction company run by former servicemen,” Saha said.

Significantly, Governor Syed Sibtey Razi has also asked government officials to get in touch with the BRO to try and convince them to take up the job.

Saha said CCL hadn’t been hit hard by the economic slump.

“There is no dearth of demand in the market for coal. In fact, the demand is still higher than supply. Our major consumers are power stations. A large number of power projects are coming up in Jharkhand and elsewhere. The only bad thing that has happened is that our prices have gone down due to the slowdown,” he said.

It was however, clear that processing of files — either for forest clearances or any other job — had gained momentum under President’s rule. Saha also lauded the efforts taken by chief secretary A.K. Basu and forest secretary Sukhdev Singh to grant clearances to the road projects.

“The ministry of forest and environment is equally keen to clear our projects. We expect project Magadh, linked to North Karnpura thermal power station, to take off by 2010-11,” he said.

“Out of the eight road projects, the Tandwa-Charhi road will encircle CCL’s coal fields like a close-ended circuit and will facilitate speedy transportation at a later stage,” he said.

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