Industrial revolution in Chhattisgarh’s tribal belts soon: Raman SinghMarch 20th, 2008 - 11:54 am ICT by admin
By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, March 20 (IANS) Chief Minister Raman Singh is confident that land acquisition for three major industrial projects in Chhattisgarh’s tribal areas will be completed by yearend, despite running into farmers’ protests. “These three projects hold the key to bringing an industrial revolution in the state’s most poverty-hit tribal regions. We have to ensure that these projects take shape as early as possible, hopefully by yearend,” Singh told IANS in an interview at his official residence.
He was referring to Tata Steel, Essar Steel and the Indian Farmers Fertilisers Cooperative Ltd’s (IFFCO) that signed separate deals with the state government in June 2005.
“In the larger interests of the state, and poor tribals in particular, I am pushing for these three projects to come up, at least by November this year,” Singh said. Incidentally, the state is going to polls in November.
Tata Steel has so far acquired about 1,050 hectares of land out of a total requirement of 2,063.06 hectares to invest Rs.100 billion for a two-phased integrated five million tonne per annum (MTPA) unit in Lohandiguda block of Bastar district.
In neighbouring Dantewada district, Essar Steel is yet to begin acquisition for 600 hectares in the Dhurli and Bhansi villages. Essar is bringing in Rs.70 billion for a 3.2 MTPA plant to come up close to Bailadila hills that have some of the country’s largest and finest quality iron ore stocks.
The government says it worked hard to persuade both the steel majors to set up plants in the Bastar region as it is one of the most impoverished and insurgency-hit areas of the country and only industrialisation can bring a revolution in the lives of local tribals.
But the projects have been mired in protests by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha, an umbrella organisation of tribal groups, which has staged a series of protests at proposed sites and provoked farmers to not surrender farmland at any cost.
The Mahasabha is campaigning against industrial houses, accusing them of “meaningless industrialisation in Bastar at the cost of driving out thousands of impoverished local tribes from their ancestral houses and lands”.
Even in the state’s extreme northern Surguja district that has a track record of human trafficking, farmers have opposed IFFCO’s plans to invest Rs.45 billion in a joint venture with Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board (CSEB) for a 1,000 MW coal-fired power unit.
“These three projects will create mass employment for the people of Bastar and will surely change the fate of coal abundant Surguja. The government will do everything to see that these vital projects take off,” said Singh, an ayurvedic doctor by profession who was sworn in Dec 7, 2003, to lead the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state.
He said IFFCO had identified land at Premnagar in Surguja and land acquisition would begin shortly while Essar too was likely to move on acquisition in a few months.
On being asked about huge delays in the projects, Singh said, “We are moving cautiously, we want peaceful land takeover. Some politicians fuelled protests and wanted violence but we handled the agitation with perfect calm and composure.”
“The industrialisation of Bastar was a long-pending demand, several governments and politicians in the past decades tried their best to bring industry in Bastar to benefit the local masses but it was the BJP government that was successful. I am confident Bastar is now just knocking on the doors of industrial revolution.”
(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)