Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Oct 23:
A day after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik requested Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to convene a tripartite meeting with POSCO officials to take a final call on the project, Odisha politics today was set abuzz with opposition parties trying to tear into the government over the Rs 52,000 crore investment that never came.
“The government is busy in various meaningless things but the fact is without a MOU the company doesn’t even exist. In the absence of a farsighted policy for industrialisation, this is an attempt by the government to hoodwink the people of Odisha,” said senior BJP leader Biswa Bhusan Harichandan.
“It was congress led UPA government that was serious about POSCO. Against all odds, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh always said that he wanted to see the project come up in Odisha and expected cooperation from the State Government. However, the State Government encouraged protests to derail the project,” accused Former PCC Chief Jayadev Jena.
In an attempt to defend the accusation, both BJD Spokesperson Amar Satapathy and State Mining Minister Praful Mallick highlighted the sincerity of the State Government in getting the tripartite meeting done to deliberate on the issues.
“They accused us of neglect during the time of land acquisition. Now it has been over. The pressing issues are raw material and allocation of captive mines. The state government wouldn’t try so hard, should it have a desire to hoodwink the people,” defended BJD Spokesperson Satapathy.
“We would be able to understand the stand of POSCO only after the high-level meeting in Delhi. We have already offered them a long-term linkage plan, but they are yet to clarify their stand and let the State Government know their expectation. They also need to discuss their expectation with the central Government,” said State Mining Minister Praful Mallick.
Notably, afraid of losing the single biggest FDI to the state, Odisha government on August 3 had decided to approach the Union Government at the highest level. State Mining Minster had even sought to get the project reviewed at PMO level. However, not much progress has been made ever since and the future of the project remains uncertain.
“The MOU between the State Government and POSCO has expired and it has not yet been renewed. Besides, the company has to go through the auction route to get the mines. Unless and until the State or the Central Government takes a clear stand pertaining to the mines allocation, I don’t see the plant coming up here,” opined Senior Journalist Dillip Satapathy.
It may also be mentioned here that the company recently announced to temporarily freeze its Rs 52,000 crore – 12 million tonne mega steel plant in the state. It also surrendered around 7300 sq ft of its office space in Bhubaneswar citing lack of need and is now operating out of 5000 sq ft facility compared to 12300 sq ft allotted to them initially.
Coupled with slowing global demand of steel, MMDR act of Union Government that denies preferential allocation of mines to any corporate without bidding and the exorbitant delay in land acquisition, the project had long been lying in a dormant status in the state.