Steel crores in land labyrinth

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By SUBHASHISH MOHANTY AND MANOJ KAR
  • Published 20.04.11
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Bhubaneswar, April 19: Posco India Limited has so far spent Rs 3,000 crore in its proposed steel plant near Paradip though the project still remains stuck with the company yet to take possession of even an inch of land at the site.

The company’s investments came to light during an ongoing review meeting chaired by steel and mines minister Raghunath Mohanty.

Posco India Limited had signed an MoU with the Orissa government on June 22, 2005 to set up a steel plant in an area of 4,004 acres. Due to stiff opposition by Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS), a people’s outfit, the state government has not able to acquire the land. The company, according to available information, has disbursed Rs 1.36 crore towards land acquisition. The amount was disbursed by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDCO) of Orissa on behalf of the company to 97 people for the acquisition of betel vines in Gadakujang gram Panchayat for the Rs 52,000 crore project. Posco officials could not be contacted.

Around two acre of forestland under betel vine cultivation had been taken possession of by IDCO when the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) put brakes on the land acquisition process.

“This apart, 651 acre litigation and encroachment-free revenue land has already been leased out to the Posco-India by the Orissa government against a payment at the rate of Rs 25,000 per acre. The lease term extends to 99 years,” said Sujeet Das, project director (rehabilitation and resettlement) for the Posco project.

Sources said Posco India has so far given direct employment to 53 persons and indirect employment to 20. The state has got Rs 4.41 crore as taxes from the project that continues to hang in the balance with questions being raised with regard to settlement of forest rights of people in the project. The Union environment ministry has now asked the state government to look into the claims made in this regard by PPSS.

The Orissa government today began a two-day review of the progress of projects in the steel sector. The state has signed MoUs with 50 industrial houses. The review revealed that acquisition of encroachment-free government land and free access to government land in different districts were the major bottlenecks in the execution of the projects.

Sources said the progress of nearly 11 projects was reviewed today. Most company officials said they were not getting the required support from the state government.

However, steel giant Tata Steel Limited has so far invested Rs 1818.12 crore in its proposed plant at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur. The company plans to invest Rs 15,400 crore to set up the six-million-tonne plant. While the state has so far received Rs 13.78 crore, the Centre has received Rs 38.12 crore as tax from this project.

There hasn’t been much progress in ArcelorMittal’s proposed steel plant in Keonjhar though it signed an MoU with the state government on December 21, 2006, land acquisition seems a problem. The validity of the MoU will expire on December 20, 2011.

Steel and mines minister Raghunath Mohanty said: “Steps are being taken to acquire land for the plant. They have assured us that they are not going away from Orissa.”

The extension of the MoU of Essar Steel Orissa Limited is under consideration of the state government. Out of the proposed investment of Rs 10,721 crore in the company’s six-million tonne plant at Paradip, Rs 5,077 crore has already been invested. Jindal Steel and Power Limited has so far spent Rs11,283.24 crore in its proposed plant at Angul.