THE State government is faced with the twin challenge of ensuring adequate security for iron ore mining projects that are stuck in Naxal heartlands of Gadchiroli and packaging them to suit the economic needs of the local populace.
“These are important since nothing of the magnitude as big as iron ore mining is possible in these areas, which are still under considerable influence of Naxal violence,” said a senior police official.
“Though the police have weakened that influence in many pockets of the district over the past few years, it will not be possible for the police to provide security for mining operations with its existing strength,” he added.
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This was made clear to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at a meeting to review development projects in Naxal affected areas here on Friday.
Fadnavis stressed the need to get proposals for iron ore mining in Gadchiroli off the ground.
Gadchiroli has over 180 MT of iron ore deposits of the 270 MT reserves in the state. Lloyd Steel and two small companies have already got permission for mining operations while the proposals of more than 10 other companies are at various stages of approval.
JSW Group is another major stakeholder that has received letter of intent to start its project.
Some incidents like beating up of labourers at some project sites and the killing of Lloyd Steel executive J S Dhillon in 2013 by Naxals put the clock back for the projects.
“The CM was told that the State may have to requisition additional battalions of paramilitary forces from the Centre to provide dedicated security to the projects,” said the officer.
Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari participated in the meeting attended by collectors, superintendents of police, inspector general of police and other top officials of Gadchiroli and Gondia. One of the steel majors will hold discussions with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh next week, it was learnt.
Asked about the CM’s assertion about benefit for locals as a precondition, a senior government official said, “Given the experience of public resistance to such projects elsewhere in the country, the idea is to first start pro-people initiatives to win people’s confidence and start projects. It means the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should precede mining operations.”
“Gadchiroli is better in many human development indices (HDI) compared to many districts but per capita income is very low. Locals need means to improve income. Mining projects could go a long way in creating jobs,” said Gadchiroli Collector Ranjit Kumar. “The locals would benefit more if the district has steel units along with iron ore mining,” he added.
Tribal activist Mahesh Raut said, “Any project mustn’t go ahead without detailed consultations with locals as also without discussions on cost-benefit factor.”
“The general experience across the country is that all that is promised is not delivered. What pro-people initiatives can these firms take when most basic things people here need are all in the ambit of government responsibilities?” he added.