Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 2:
Hailing the Centre’s announcement to set up a second steel plant in Odisha, former minister Niranjan Patnaik today urged Union Steel & Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to choose Keonjhar as the site for the proposed plant.
“Keonjhar supplies maximum amount of iron ore and manganese to steel manufacturing units in the country. Since the last 50 years, people of Keonjhar have been demanding that instead of all the iron ore from the district getting transported out of the district, there should be value addition within the district. If an urban centre like Rourkela can be created in Keonjhar and jobs can be provided to the local youth, the face of the district can be transformed,” Patnaik said.
“The Mittals had signed a MoU with the state government for setting up a steel plant in Keonjhar at a promised investment of close to Rs 30, 000 crore. But because of the incompetence of the state government, the Mittals shelved the project which adversely affected the interest of the district. The people of this district, many from the adivasi and dalit communities, suffer because of environmental degradation as a result of unscientific and illegal mining activities and scant enforcement of environment laws by the state government. They also suffer because their roads are taken over by trucks transporting iron ore. But at the same time, they face abject neglect. There are no job opportunities, very few industries and the education and health infrastructure have lagged behind. Keonjhar both justifies and desperately needs a second steel plant,” the senior Congress leader said.
However, the incumbent state government has a very poor track record in project implementation and many projects for which MoUs were signed around 2003 have by now been shelved or grossly delayed. Therefore, the Central government will have to show a very high level of involvement and commitment, if a second steel plant of SAIL in Odisha is to be made a reality, the former PCC chief said.
“SAIL should decide unequivocally to locate their second steel plant in Keonjhar. Such a decision will address the grievances of the people of the district substantially. The demand for a large steel plant in Keonjhar is genuine and should be assessed rising above narrow partisan considerations,” he added.