Close on the heels of the Singur judgement, Tata Steel has indicated to the Chhattisgarh High Court that it is pulling out of the proposed 5.5 million tonne per annum integrated steel plant in the Lohandiguda region of Bastar district.
An memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Tata and the Chhattisgarh government in June 2005, with an estimated cost of Rs 19,500 crore. On its part, with Tata unable to acquire land directly in the tribal area, the state had acquired 1,764 hectares of land, with 70 per cent of farmers accepting compensation.
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The government has, however, said that it “has not taken possession of the land so far.” But hit with myriad problems such as protests on the nature of acquisition, Naxal presence in the area, the company has now indicated to the Chhattisgarh High Court that it intends to pull out.
On Tuesday, a petition filed by advocate Sudiep Srivastava, which sought to point out discrepancies in the MoU signed between the state government and Tata as well as Essar for another steel plant in Bastar came up for hearing with the petitioner citing local news reports of the Tatas pulling out. Ashish Srivastava, counsel for the company told The Indian Express: “The Court has asked for stated positions on this matter to be filed by all parties in the case, including my client in the next five weeks. However I have spoken to company officials, and communicated that it is unlikely the company will be able to continue.”
Sudiep Srivastava told The Indian Express: “Even as the acquisition itself was full of loopholes, the MoU has been signed for several years and land has been acquired, but there has been no work that has taken place which means there is no question of any employment opportunities and so on. In the light of the law, and the Singur judgement, the land acquisition should be squashed and returned to the farmers, and if acquisition must take place, it must happen afresh at current rates. The government instead wants to create a land bank and give it to other companies. The court has said that I will have to amend my petition, and has given five weeks time for the same.”
Additional advocate general A Kacchawaha confirmed that the government’s position is that the land was acquired by Chhattisgarh State Industrial Development Corporation (CSIDC), and would be turned into a land bank.
“The agreement under the acquisition was for a mega steel plant to come up in Lonadiguda and land was acquired by CSIDC.
That land will now go to a land bank so other entities can set up the proposed plant,” he said. Official sources told The Indian Express that the state government was considering handing the land over to NMDC.