West Bengal chief minister flags off new steel plant

February 17th, 2009 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Raghunathpur (West Bengal), Feb 17 (IANS) West Bengal’s Left Front government Tuesday tried to give a push to its industrialisation drive with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee laying the foundation stone of a Rs.34.25 billion steel plant in the Maoist-hit Purulia district, some 300 km from Kolkata.
The integrated plant, to be set up by Shyam Steel, would be spread over 1,265 acres, but till date the company has directly purchased only 74 acres, raising questions about the project in a state that has seen intense acrimony between the government and the opposition over land acquisition.

The government’s industrialisation drive received a big setback last year after Tata Motors shifted its small car project out of the state to Gujarat. Construction giant DLF too has reportedly shelved its proposed township project near Kolkata.

At the foundation stone laying ceremony, Bhattacharjee urged Shyam Steel officials to start the project without delay.

“The process for acquiring the rest of the land is on. I will speak to the district administration so that we can get the land fast,” he said at the function.

The project includes the 1.1 million tonne per annum steel plant, a one million tonne cement plant and a captive power plant of 150 MW, entailing a total expenditure of Rs.34.25 billion.

“Construction will start in the last quarter of 2009 and the project will be operational by 2011,” Shyam Steel chairman Shyam Sundar Beriwala said.

Bhattacharjee said the integrated project would give direct employment to 2,110 people. “Another 11,000 will get indirect employment, as shops, residential houses and new roads will come up in the area, which will see comprehensive development.”

Apparently keeping in mind the opposition to land acquisition for several industrial projects in the state, he tried to ensure support of the youth. “I urge Shyam Steel to set up a polytechnic and industrial training institute in the area, so that the youth here can be trained for employment.”

He said Purulia, earlier considered one of the 15 most backward districts in the country, now had a favourable industrial climate, “so investors are coming here”.

State-run power producer Damodar Valley Corp (DVC) is constructing a large power plant in the district.

Bhattacharjee also tried to allay fears that the global recession that has led to JSW Steel announcing that its proposed project at Salboni would be reviewed after three months due to a credit crunch, would affect the Shyam Steel venture.

“I have spoken to the company. The officials have told me the recession won’t be a problem.”

Reiterating the state government’s resolve for industrialisation, the chief minister said: “A society cannot progress unless industries are there. Regardless of the opposition, we will complete the project.”

West Bengal Industrial Development Corp (WBIDC) managing director Subrata Gupta said the Shyam Steel project would be part of an industrial park. “This company will be the anchor investor. There will be lot of opportunities for downstream units as we need small factories for providing spares to the big plants.”

The state government put into operation a massive security apparatus, comprising 1,500 policemen, for Bhattacharjee’s first visit to the state’s Maoist belt since he took over as chief minister.

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