Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Jagatsinghpur/Kujanga, June 22:
Exactly a decade after the Odisha government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Korean steel major Posco for setting up a mega steel plant near Paradip, it has turned out to be a dream gone sour both for Posco and the people in the area.
While the proposed plant is no closer to fruition than it was at the time, the people living in and around the proposed plant site are infinitely worse off than they were 10 years ago.
With their farmland lost to the project, compensation money exhausted, farmers of three panchayats, who once upon a time earned in lakhs by growing betel vines, are now struggling for an existence.
They have sought to know from the government whether Posco will come up with its project or withdraw and have threatened take up betel growing again.
Locals blame the faulty policies of both the Central and state governments for the South Korean steel company Posco not coming up with its plant in the area.
A decade after the signing of the MoU, the project, billed as the single largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India, is yet to move a step forward. After an initial hype, a long struggle for land acquisition and uncertainty over captive iron ore mines, the project has reached the precipice.
The steel giant had to reduce the scale of the plant from the original 12 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) to 8 MTPA after problems over land acquisition. But even 8 MTPA appears to be a distant dream now. In fact, there are serious doubts if the project will take off at all.
Even as it failed to take off, the proposed plant has caused immense loss in the area. At least 2,000 acres of betel vineyards were pulled down in the area and more than a lakh of trees felled. The project, which is yet to come up or has a bleak chance of coming up according to industry insiders, has strained relationships among the villagers of Gadakujanga, Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gobindpur with five lives lost in the hostilities that prevailed in the area over supporting or opposing the project in the area. Those who were in support of the project have lost hopes in view of the Central government making it clear that auction route is only route for Posco to avail iron ore mines for its project here.
Notably, the state government and Posco had inked a MoU to construct a steel plant here on June 22, 2005 at an investment of Rs 52,000 crore. IDCO in the first phase had acquired 2,200 acres of land and betel vines on 2,000 were destroyed for the purpose. The project which was scheduled to be completed by 2011 now look doomed.