While the Chhattisgarh government has long been accused of favouring private companies by ignoring rules and regulations, the public sector company National Mineral Development Corporation (NDMC) seems to be the latest beneficiary of government’s leniency.
Since 2001, the NDMC has been in the process of setting up a steel plant in Nagarnar village of Bastar district. After failing to get the plant running in the last 12 years, NDMC has now floated a global tender for a joint venture and has decided to give 49 percent stake to private players. Though NDMC has said it’s not disinvestment but a joint venture, but the farmers whose lands were acquired for this plant are accusing the NMDC of fraud.
In 2000 NMDC signed a deal with Russia to import their Romelt process for its steel plant for 70 crores. In 2001, NMDC first acquired land from the farmers in Nagarnar village for setting up the steel plant. According to the villagers, farmers of Nagarnar, Kasturi, Aamaguda and Maganpur villages were pressurised and 996.7 acres of their land was acquired. The state government and NMDC acquired the land under the name of the industrial development of Bastar, even though the company did not have the technical expertise for setting up of the plant.
Having failed to strike a deal with Russia on the procurement of technology to set up the plant, NMDC later decided to modify its project and to set up an integrated steel plant based on the blast furnace technology from Australia. By this time, the cost of this three million ton per year production capacity project had jumped from Rs 300 crores to Rs 16000 crores. In 2010, NMDC further acquired 970 acres in Upanpal, Chokawada, Dhanpunji, Karanpur and Madpal. Apart from that, 250 acres of land was acquired for laying railway tracks to the plant.
The president of the Nagarnar Steel Plant Prabhavit Sangharsh Samiti, Laikhan Baghel, told TEHELKA that when the farmers protested against land acquisition, the police arrested around 350 people from the village and sent them to jail on a remand of one and a half months. He said that all the 352 farmers whose land was taken in the first phase were given jobs but the 1052 farmers whose land was acquired in the second phase are yet to get jobs. On being asked about the jobs, the company says that the process is underway. Since the Steel Ministry has to take a decision on jobs, the farmers should go to them. Even the employees of NMDC are protesting against the privitisation.
At the company’s headquarters in Hyderabad, Jaiprakash, the PRO of the company told TEHELKA that the company is not going for any disinvestment. The company is an expert in mining but has no experience to install and run a steel plant. In this situation the company is preparing to enter into a joint venture. We have asked for global tenders for it. If we get a strategic partner, along with getting the technology the company would save Rs 8000 crores and the work would also be completed quickly.
The last date for filing the tenders is 12 April, although the response has not been great. But the farmers of Nagarnar are protesting the sale of stake in a plant that is yet to be commissioned.