Industry hope in central rule

Ranchi, Feb. 6: Investors Inc., languishing for years in Jharkhand's volatile political climate, has now begun making a beeline to the state's new power centre and hoping for a positive rub-off from President's Rule.

Political expediency has made two of Jharkhand's biggest investors ' steelmakers ArcelorMittal and Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) ' blue-eyed boys and pariahs by turns, leaving them bereft of a supporting infrastructure to get their projects suitably off the ground. Now, both hope that President's Rule will end the doublespeak and the tide will turn.

This afternoon, JSPL chairman and Congress MP from Kurukshetra Naveen Jindal as well as ArcelorMittal's global vice-president M.P. Singh, who looks after mining, mergers and acquisitions, flew in and separately met governor Syed Ahmed at Project Building to seek status updates and make requests.

Both meetings ' touted as "courtesy calls" by the representatives of the corporate biggies ' lasted for a concise 10 minutes each but dealt with specific deadlocks and delays.

Jindal, who met the governor first, brought along his associate vice-president A.K. Biruly, posted in the capital. Singh also came with his Ranchi-based general manager S.K. Shekhar. It is understood that Biruly and Shekhar filled in the local details.

Insiders believe Jindal discussed the status of the current projects, especially the proposed captive power plants at Patratu and Godda, with governor Ahmed.

JSPL acquired 550 acres in Patratu for their 1.8MTPA wire and rod mill where production started in 2010. However, they badly need a captive power plant there for which they have to acquire at least 500 more acres.

"The Jindals have not been able to find land beyond what it acquired after purchasing Bihar Steel and Alloys Limited in Patratu. They are considering clamping their operations in the state," commented a senior official of industry department.

However, Jindal later told a section of mediapersons that they were aiming to expand their Patratu unit. Along with a captive power plant in Patratu, they also wanted to set up a 1,320MW power plant in Godda of Santhal Pargana commissionary area. "We are serious about our projects in Jharkhand," he added.

Multinational ArcelorMittal has fared worse. Despite its 2005 MoU with the Jharkhand government, it has not been able to make much headway. The company proposed to set up a 12 MTPA steel mill in the state, investing over Rs 40,000 crore. So far, it has been in the news for changing sites ' Torpa and Kolebira blocks of Khunti and Sindega districts were mulled and rejected for Petarwar-Kasmar in Bokaro.

Right now, though ArcelorMittal top brass played cards close to their chest, insiders revealed the steel major was eyeing land near Chandankyari block, Bokaro, for its first-phase downsized 3 MTPA steel plant.

"We need about 2,200 acres in Bokaro. We applied to the district and state departments of industry and revenue and land reforms. But somehow, matters appear murkier seven years after the MoU was signed," asserted a senior official of ArcelorMittal, requesting anonymity.

The company also needs land and forest clearance fast for two iron ore blocks in Karampada reserved forest area, West Singhbhum, and a coal block in Seregarha, Latehar district. Environment and forest clearance of mines is also pending for around three years.

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