Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 28:
While it remains uncertain whether South Korean steel giant Posco is still keen to set up its steel plant at Paradip or not, the Odisha government, facing charges that it is not doing enough to prevent Posco from moving out of the state, has launched an aggressive fire-fighting exercise by blaming the Centre for the prevailing situation.
The state government has said the Centre is more to blame for the current situation. Posco had desired to set up the steel plant. However, after the Centre’s refusal to allocate mines to the company on recommendation basis despite state government’s several requests, the company seems to be back stepping a little.
The state government has reiterated that after Posco clarifies its view on the issue of mines, talks will progress and that the state government desires that Posco’s steel plant comes up.
After BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra targeting the state government at a press conference here on Monday to make its intentions clear about Posco’s troubled $12 billion steel project before the company made its stand clear, three ministers of the ruling BJD pounced to defend their government on the issue and tried to shift the entire blame on Posco and the Central government.
“If Posco leaves Odisha, not that it will result in losses, it will even lead to creation of an unfortunate situation. Because in the past former chief minister Biju Patnaik had made efforts to set up a steel plant in Paradip area and had failed. On the other hand, Posco being the biggest FDI project in India its withdrawal will send a wrong message,” said Damodar Rout, Minister Excise and the MLA from Paradip.
Informing that he has been distanced in the last ten years from Posco, though the MoU inked with the company for establishment of the steel plant fell in the area coming under his Assembly constituency, Rout said the government did not take any action against those who had been opposing the project for nothing.
He said Posco has scaled down on several of its clauses it had kept at the time of signing of the MoU like the swapping of iron ore, agreeing to start its plant on 2700 acre land instead of the 4005 acre it had asked for and has also withdrawn its proposal for setting up of a captive port.
“While the issue of land has been resolved, uncertainty over mines has cropped up, probably that stood in the way for the renewal of the MoU,” said Rout.
On the other hand, Industry minister Debi Prasad Mishra said Posco had last communicated with the Industries department three months back and his department has provided all assistance for setting up of the factory. He said Posco has been provided with 1700 acre of land. Since Jagatsinghpur district administration sought money for the land provided to Posco, IDCO has written a letter to Posco, Mishra said.
“Let Posco take a call on whether it will set up its unit in Odisha or not, he added”.
“Posco should come up with its unit and the government has been extending all kinds of support to it for that reason. We had written to the Centre several times for the mines to which the latter has refused to oblige. The state government has no fault in it,” said Steel and Mines minister Prafulla Kumar Mallick.