Tata Steel shifts 'zero date' for Kalinganagar plant to Dec

After jumping several targeted timelines for resuming construction work for its 6 million tonne per annum greenfield steel project at Kalinganagar in Orissa's Jajpur district, Tata Steel has finally exuded confidence to start the work on the plant by December this year.

“There is a group of 100-odd anti-displacement people who have held up construction work on our steel plant. However, of late, the district administration has shown resolve in persuading these people and we are going to commence construction work on our steel project positively by December this year”, BK Singh, vice-president (Orissa project) of Tata Steel told reporters here.

Singh admitted that Tata Steel had not been able to resume construction work on the proposed steel plant according to its targeted timelines owing to resistance from the anti-displacement people belonging to the affected villages.

“Tata Steel has already shifted 740 out of the 1,195 families and we are in talks with the rest. The company can kick off construction work on its steel plant even without shifting all the families but displacement being a sensitive issue, we don't want to thrust anything on the affected people,” Singh said here, on the sidelines of a CII meet on Rehabilitation & Resettlement

Stating that the gory incident on January 2, 2006, which resulted in the killing of 14 tribals,. is still fresh in the mind of Tata Steel, Singh said company preferred to move forward through building bridges of trust and understanding rather than coercion.

Asked if Tata Steel was contemplating to offer shares to the displaced people, Singh said, “We don't think that offering shares is a good option as the locals in Kalinganagar hardly understand the intricacies of shares and the stock market.”

It may be recalled that during his last visit to Orissa, HM Nerurkar, executive director (India and South-East Asia), Tata Steel Ltd, had announced that the company expected to start construction work on the Kalinganagar plant by middle of August this year.

Tata Steel's Kalinganagar steel project has been marred by delay of over four years that has scaled up its project cost. The original project cost, which was Rs 15,400 crore, has now gone up to Rs 21,000 crore.

The steelmaker had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Orissa government in November 2004 for setting up the integrated steel plant at Kalinganagar.

The protest against Tata Steel’s project is spearheaded by Visthapan Virodhi Jana Manch (VVJM).

VVJM was formed after the death of 14 people in a police firing on January 2, 2006 when the tribals clashed with the police while opposing the construction of the steel plant’s boundary wall.

Meanwhile, Tata Steel had placed orders for construction equipment worth Rs 6,000 crore for the steel plant.

The company had also started offsite steel fabrication for hot strip mills in an area leased out from the state government-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) near Jajpur Road to reduce the construction time for the project.