November 6, 2008

Foundation stone laid for Jindal’s Rs 35,000-crore mega steel plant

Salboni (West Midnapore), Nov 2: A landmine exploded close to where Sajjan Jindal’s Rs 35,000-crore steel project is going to be set up, here on Sunday. The blast took place less than an hour after the foundation stone for the project was laid by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The blast, according to industry observers, has challenged chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s call for looking beyond Singur and move ahead with industrialisation in the state. Despite the Tata pullout from Singur being a defeat for the government, according to the chief minister, “all is not lost”. JSW Bengal chairman Sajjan Jindal re-affirmed that his commitment to invest Rs 35,000 crore in the state for setting up an integrated steel plant in a period of ten years will remain intact.
Union steel chemical and fertiliser minister Ram Vilas Paswan said West Bengal’s application for setting up a petroleum, chemical and petrochemical investment region (PCPIR) would go to the high-power committee next week for clearance. The high-power committee’s clearance would be followed by the Cabinet approval, Paswan said.

A visibly happy Bhattacharjee told reporters after the foundation stone laying ceremony that Singur was an exception and the need of the hour was to look beyond it. He said, “Very soon we are going to announce a new project in Singur.”

The government is at present examining a plethora of proposals and a new project would come up on the same land, which the Tatas have deserted. He said the Tatas were ready to hand over the land to the government whenever it would ask for.

But all of it was marred by the attack on the VIP convoy. Police suspect Maoists hand and they might have targeted the chief minsiter’s convoy. Police assume that the blast was mistimed, as only a trailor pilot vehicle was struck sparing Bhattacharjee, Ramvilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada (Union minister of state for steel). The convoys of the three ministers were following each other.
Bhattacharjee, who addressed a huge gathering at the project site, said: “We know our farmers and understand their attachment with land. But for overall development we need industry for creating jobs and more jobs or else the new generation will not spare us.” Chief Minister also said, Sajjan Jindal has got all the support from the locals.

According to Jindal, his compensation package in the model of inclusive growth—cash compensation, one permanent employment in the steel plant for every land looser family and company’s shares—had led to hassle-free land acquisition. Bhattacharjee said this compensation was possible because Salboni has only 137 project-affected families against Singur’s 1200.

However, Biswadeep Gupta, JSW Bengal’s joint managing director & CEO, said: “Our confidence is not shaken by this blast and we have nothing to rethink on our investment plans. This we can understand is a political move and is not intended to hamper our project.”

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