JSW Steel project rekindles West Bengal’s industrialisation dream

November 2nd, 2008 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

Salboni (West Bengal), Nov 2 (IANS) Nearly a month after Tata Motors aborted its small car project in Singur, West Bengal is rekindling its fading industrialisation dream with the laying of the foundation stone Sunday for the Sajjan Jindal promoted JSW Steel project in this Maoist-targeted area amid high security.But after the rancour between the leading political players that saw the coveted Nano factory being shifted to Gujarat, the Rs.350 billion (over $7 billion) Salboni project has so far been a study in contrast - albeit with some hitches. All political groups have welcomed Jindal to this backward West Midnapore district that has large tracts of fallow land.

Apparently taking lessons from the Singur fiasco, where the main opposition Trinamool Congress led the farmers to a sustained and intense agitation over what they called “forcible acquisition of farmland”, Jindal has acted fast to pre-empt any future problem by declaring a compensation package for the landlosers.

JSW Steel, which inked a memorandum of agreement (MoA) January last year with the state government for building a 10-million-tonne plant over the next 10 years in Salboni, nearly 150 km from Kolkata, requires 4,800 acres for the project.

As a sop to the landlosers, the company said it will issue shares to everybody who gives up land for the project.

JSW Steel, which is looking at transfer of land to them without any hitches, has already declared its corporate social responsibility plan. It plans to set up a medical camp here, while sponsoring the school mid-day meal is also in the firm’s scheme of things.

However, there was some political tension regarding the project in the last few days.

Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has alleged that the ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was trying to politicise the event and make it a party affair.

The Congress echoed her view, but later relented and agreed to attend the function following a request from Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who is scheduled to lay the foundation stone in the presence of Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

Sunday’s programme could prove to be a watershed for the state, which has seen even infrastructural projects like the expansion of a key national highway stalled following anti-land acquisition agitations.

For the state government, the project presents a great opportunity to bring its industrial efforts back on rails. For the opposition, it is a chance to shake off its anti-industry image.

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, who pulled out the showcase Nano project from the state Oct 3, held the Trinamool Congress responsible for its exit from Singur.

“We have never opposed the Jindal project as the industrialist is buying land directly from the owners and also giving a good package. I don’t know whether our representatives will attend the programme. But I want to make it clear that our agitation in Singur was against forcible acquisition of agricultural land. We were never against industrialiasation,” said a senior Trinamool leader.

With the area falling under a belt that has seen several attacks by Maoist extremists, security has been beefed up by several notches in and around the venue. Senior state police officers are camping at the spot, and police deployment is huge.

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