Why prevent companies from mining now: CM Raman Singh (Interview)

February 17th, 2011 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, Feb 17 (IANS) Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh says setting up steel and coal-based power projects will provide employment to thousands of poor families and there is no point in preventing mining now when companies have already made progress.”A number of big steel plants are coming up in the poverty-hit Bastar region in the south and we are planning several coal-based power projects for the northern region that will come up in two to five years,” Singh told IANS in an interview.

“These projects will revolutionise people’s life quality,” Singh told IANS. Singh said the focus of the industrial drive will be on providing employment to the local population in the proposed plants.

Land acquisition has almost been completed for the massive integrated steel plants in the iron ore-rich Bastar region, home to over a million tribal people caught in the crossfire between Maoists and security forces since the late 1980s.

Singh has been heading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government since December 2003.

Referring to the controversy over land acquisition for power projects in “no go areas,” as marked by the union environment and forests ministry, Singh said: “This is the case when once the house has been constructed with due permission and as per rule, then the house owner is asked to get a no-objection certificate.”

The union government decided to refer the issue to a group of ministers (GoM) following sharp differences between the environment, coal and power ministries over the issue of allowing mining of coal in certain sensitive areas.

“Several projects such as IFFCO have acquired land for power plants in the state and put in good investment already. They are not getting coal blocks or coal linkages because of the ‘no-go area’ issue, though the final decision has to be taken now by the GoM.

“I conveyed my request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that if the government was not interested to allow coal blocks in a ‘no go area’, then why have they notified such areas as coal blocks,” Singh said.

He stressed: “I am not against forests. We should protect the forest cover. But my argument is that if the central government wanted to prevent the companies from mining in ‘no go’ areas then I should have been informed much earlier, not after the companies made major progress on their projects.”

India’s largest iron ore producer and exporter in public sector, the National Mineral Development corporation (NMDC), is to set up a 3.0 million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel plant in Bastar district.

The private sector steel major Tata Steel is also planning a 5.5 MTPA plant in the district.

The state government has a deal for another 3.2 MTPA plant in the region with Essar Steel.

The tribal-majority Surguja region in the north is coal rich, where several thermal plants will come up in the coming years, including a 4,000-MW mega project.

The government has also been planning to allow private companies to set up an aluminium plant in the region, which has a good deposit of bauxite as well.

Singh strongly advocated a ban on iron ore exports and said he strongly favoured the setting up of industries in the mineral- rich regions where local people can be employed.

“Imposing a ban on the export of iron ore has been my long-time demand; I have repeatedly told the central government. I presented the issue before the group of ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was drafting the new mining policy,” the chief minister said.

“My policy is that its value addition should be within the state to help local people get employment,” said the 59-year-old politician.

(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at sujeet.k@ians.in)

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