Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik to help her state address iron ore shortage, besides stressing the need for building an industrial corridor between the two states.
“The Merchants' Chamber of Commerce (and Industry) requested me when I came to Puri to discuss the shortage of iron ore with you... Odisha has vast reserves of iron ore. They have so many iron ore-based industries also. If we can sign an MoU or something like that, the chamber members can also get some iron ore from Odisha. An industrial corridor may also be developed between Bengal and Odisha to further develop our economy,” said Mamata who called on Patnaik at his official residence in Bhubaneswar.
Although Mamata didn't disclose how the iron ore shortage in Bengalcould be addressed, sources aware of her government's plea to Patnaik said the secondary steel and pellet manufacturers in Bengal had proposed a solution to mitigate the supply shortfall facing the industry in their letter to the chief minister.
“You are requested to kindly take up this issue with the government of Odisha so that iron ore from Odisha is supplied to the West Bengal-based steel and pellet manufacturing units via linkages with OMC or any Odisha-based PSU through the West Bengal Mineral Development and Trading Corporation (WBMDTC) to ensure a regular supply of iron ore at fair market price,” Namit Bajoria, president of the MCCI, wrote to Mamata on March 20.
The total iron ore demand of secondary steel and pellet manufacturers in Bengal is around 25 million tonnes per annum. It includes about five million tonnes of lumps and 20 million tonnes of fines. While lumps are being fully sourced from Odisha, the Bengal-based industries are struggling to get the required quantities of fines from the neighbouring state.
As a consequence, the secondary steel and pellet manufacturers are forced to bring iron ore from Maharashtra and Chattisgarh, incurring additional freight costs. Industry estimates a shortfall of six-seven million tonnes of fines, which is forcing many units to cut down on production as well.
The secondary steel producers of Bengal are mostly dependent on the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for their iron ore procurement. They buy the iron ore from auctions conducted by the OMC as well as from private miners in Odisha.
The industry in Odisha, however, enjoys a natural advantage as they get supply from OMC through dedicated linkage. Bengal, which is bereft of iron ore resources, depends on auctions. A linkage will ensure assured supply, the industry claimed.
Sources in the state government said Patnaik assured Mamata that her proposal would be looked into.
During her meeting with Patnaik — which both described as a courtesy meeting — Mamata also raised the issue of how people were facing problems at different checkpoints while carrying iron ore from different mining areas of Odisha to Bengal.
Patnaik is believed to have assured Mamata of addressing the issue.
"Odisha has rich deposits of iron, coal, and bauxite and it gives leases of iron and bauxite to different industrial houses. Bengal has the required coal reserves. If proper linkages are developed, it will help both the states," said a source in Nabanna.
Mamata, who was in Odisha on a three-day tour during which she performed puja at Jagannath Temple in Puri, thanked Patnaik for giving two acres of land in Puri, one of the favourite tourist destinations for pilgrims from Bengal, to build a Bangla Bhavan.
Mamata also spoke about her efforts to build a Jagannath temple in her state at Digha and invited Patnaik to Bengal. “We are neighbours. If there is a cyclone in Odisha, the cyclone will come to Bengal. That’s the situation. If there is a power cut in Odisha because of a cyclone, Bengal will face the same problem. But we maintain a very very good relationship.”
Both the leaders said they had discussed the overall situation in the country and they agreed that the federal structure in the country should be strengthened. “I strongly agree with Naveen Ji that our federal structure should be very strong and strengthened further," said Mamata after her meeting with Naveen.
“We have discussed the safety of democratic rights and the nations safety. Let us hope that our people remain safe and sound,” said Mamata.