The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 8 , 2014
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Monitor push for mega investments

Ranchi, Jan. 7: Jharkhand Inc. received a favourable push today when Anil Swarup, the chairman of the seven-month-old but high-profile Project Monitoring Group (PMG) under Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), promised to regularly assess the demands of investors and entrepreneurs in the state.

Swarup, speaking at a closed-door “industry roundtable” hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at a city hotel, addressed 50-odd senior representatives of firms, including ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, Essar Group, Jindal Steel & Power Limited, Abhijeet Group, Adhunik Group, Usha Martin and others. Each of them have at stake investments of Rs 1,000 crore or above.

Inviting investors to approach the to-be-constituted state monitoring outfit or the PMG, Swarup promised assessments on two levels — Centre and state — to fast-track complaints to a logical conclusion.

He added pending problems would be reviewed at least twice a month at the state-level by the dedicated team to be constituted by chief secretary R.S. Sharma. “At the level of the PMG in Delhi, reviews are held every week with ministries such as forest and environment, coal, railways, among others,” Swarup said.

Jharkhand, which introduces itself everywhere as the state with 40 per cent of India’s mineral deposits, attracted investors, but the bubble of MoUs burst soon when a volatile political situation could not handle basic problems such as land acquisition and forest and environment clearances to pave way for industries.

“There are 407 projects across India, including 29 in Jharkhand, which are regularly monitored by the PMG. The total cost of 407 projects is slated to be Rs 18 lakh crore, inclusive of Jharkhand’s Rs 2.75 lakh crore. Jharkhand’s problem of delayed land acquisition and environment and forests clearances for projects isn’t something alien. The situation is the same in other states too,” Swarup told The Telegraph later.

Even today, in the course of the closed-door talks, land acquisition and clearances in limbo were the industry representatives’ most frequently voiced grievances.

Insiders said ArcelorMittal representatives raised the issue of their pending stage 1 clearance of allocated iron ore mining lease in Karampada forests, West Singhbhum, as well as land acquisition, while Essar Group officials rued the lack of statutory forest clearance for its coal block in Chakla, Latehar.

B.H. Ravindra, managing director (Jharkhand operations) of the Essar Group, which is also setting up a power plant in Naxalite-hit Chandwa in Latehar district, minced no words.

“We have already invested over Rs 3,000 crore in our Tori power project in Chandwa. But the pending issue of forest clearances related to coal mines is causing a plethora of problems, including financial implications. We need to sort out the issues in the near future,” Ravindra told The Telegraph on the sidelines.

Swarup was realistic enough to say that processes took time as far as clearances related to land, environment and forests were concerned. “But matters related to land acquisition, law and order are state subjects. These need to be expedited,” he stressed.

“The PMG, constituted in June 2013, also reviews the status of projects worth less than Rs 1,000 crore. We try to put mega industrial and infrastructure projects by private companies, government and PSUs on the fast track. The Centre’s fuel supply agreement for 78,000MW power projects will also impact the scenario soon,” Swarup, who was with V.P. Joy, joint secretary of PMG, added.