Agitation over steel plant in Himachal Pradesh

December 26th, 2008 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Dec 26 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh government’s decision not to allot power and land to the public sector Steel Authority of India (SAIL) for setting up a plant in the state has run into trouble with residents of the area where the facility was to have come up launching an indefinite agitation Friday.The Rs.455.55-billion steel behemoth has plans to invest Rs.1.06 billion (Rs.106 crore) to set up a steel plant near Nahan in Sirmaur district - SAIL’s first in northern India.

“More than 1,500 residents of over a dozen villages came together under the banner of the Steel Plant Bachao Samiti (Save the steel plant committee) and launched an indefinite agitation against the government,” former Nahan legislator and leader of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party Sadanand Chauhan told IANS over phone.

Steel minister Paswan had announced in 2006 that a SAIL plant would be set up in Sirmaur district for the benefit of the economically backward district.

“It’s surprising that four months ago the government gave permission for setting up two mega private steel units in Sirmaur district that together required 88 MW of power… now it is saying that we are not in a position to provide 4.6 MW to SAIL,” Chauhan said.

He said SAIL had already identified land in Sirmaur district, but the project could not be set up till power is provided by the state.

Using thermo-mechanical treatment technology, the proposed plant is scheduled to produce 120,000 tonnes of steel rods, wire drawings and corrugated sheets annually and is expected to provide direct employment to more than 200 people.

Notably, the state government has officially conveyed to the SAIL authorities its inability to provide land and power at the proposed site.

“As Sirmaur district is facing acute power shortage, we (the government) have advised SAIL not to set up the plant there,” an official of the state industry department said.

He said the government had advised SAIL to set up its plant in Kangra district.

“We offered to allot 100 bighas (about 25 hectares) of land to SAIL in Kangra district for the project. Moreover, the SAIL authorities had at one point agreed to set up the plant there. Now, it’s just due to political reasons that the project is getting delayed,” he said.

“We have already completed the process to transfer the land in Kangra district to SAIL. If it (SAIL) wants, it can take possession,” the official said.

The state government had cleared 18 investment proposals worth Rs.166.6 billion this February, which included the SAIL plant. Himachal Pradesh has 38 industrial areas and 15 industrial estates.

The state’s industrial sector received a major boost in 2003 following the special industrial package announced by the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre.

Lured by the industrial package, more than 900 medium and large-scale units have set up base in Himachal Pradesh since then.

Of these, 623 units have been set up in the Baddi, Barotiwala and Nalagarh areas of Solan district.

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