Updated: April 11, 2014 5:23:07 pm
In a decision that may come as a warning to industry in Himachal Pradesh,the state government has turned down a proposal to provide nearly 77 bighas of government land near Nalagarh to the private firm Ambuja Cement Ltd for limestone mining to sustain its existing plant.
Highly placed sources said Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri,who has been putting pressure on the cement companies to lower down the retail rates of the building material in the state,raised strong objections to his own departments recommendation for allowing additional land to the company.
Why has department recommended grant of government lease to the company without exploring options of asking the promoters (Ambuja) to buy private land in the vicinity of the existing cement plant and mining leases, the minister is understood to have asked the officials.
The proposal for grant of land lease - total requirement of the company is about 426 bighas - was mooted during the previous BJP government. Three different sites were proposed for the company and revenue officials had accordingly sent the proposal to the government. Shimla Divisional Commissioner had in November 2012 also endorsed the proposal . The company officials insist that lease is not new. It is an extension of the lease area. The state government already stands committed as the plant requires raw material to sustain its production, a top company executive said when contacted.
However,Agnihotri countered that the promoters should look for private land. It is a wrong precedent to offer government land. The previous BJP government had started this bad precedent. We are not against the investors,or against any particularly company. There is already a case pending in the Supreme Court on a similar issue relating to land diversion. The promoters should look for private land, he added.
In a related development,the state government has served notices to five cement companies informing them that it was withdrawing the approval granted to them to set up new plants in the state. The firms include Harish Cement,whose project was approved 18 years back.
The cabinet has already granted approval to the industries department to withdraw the licenses granted as these five firms failed to set up their cement plants. The companies include Harish Cements,Lafarge India Pvt Ltd,India Cements and Jai Prakash Associates (two projects).
While Harish Cements Ltd was granted approval for a plant at Sundernagar,which had run into trouble after High Court quashed the land acquisition proceedings,Lafarge was given approval to set up a plant at Alsindi in Karsog tehsil. The India Cement was to set up a plant at Gumma-Rohana in Shimla. Jai Prakash Associates was granted approval for Baga Bhalag Limestone deposits in Arki tehsil of Solan district and another plant in Churah area of Chamba district.
Recently,the government decided to grant prospecting license to Reliance Cement Company for setting up a plant based on limestone in Chopal area of Shimla
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