Amid political slugfest over construction of a refinery at Barmer in Rajasthan, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will next week do “project commencement” work on the Rs 43,129 crore project. Ahead of the January 16 event at Pachpadra, ruling BJP and opposition Congress were slugging it out to get credit for the refinery. Congress says its then president Sonia Gandhi had laid foundation stone of the refinery on September 22, 2013 and Modi was “re-laying” the foundation stone. Announcing details of the event, Pradhan did not term the event as foundation laying and merely said “work on the project will start” in Modi’s presence. “Project ka Shubharambh hoga (project will commence),” he told reporters here.
He termed the 2013 foundation laying as “political stunt” as the function was held just days before the model code of conduct for assembly elections came into force on September 27, 2013. “When there was talk of introducing BS-IV and BS-VI emission compliant fuel in the country, why did he (the then chief minister Ashok Gehlot) sign an agreement for producing BS-III compliant fuel from the refinery,” he said, adding that the 9 million tonnes a year refinery would now produce BS-VI or Euro-VI grade petrol and diesel.
A press statement issued after briefing stated that “Project commencement of Barmer Refinery at Pachpadra, Rajasthan is scheduled to be done by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 16, 2018”. Rajasthan will see by-polls in Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha, and Mandalgarh Assembly seats on January 29. The state goes to polls later this year. He said in 2013, when Congress was in power in Rajasthan as well as at the Centre, 4,800-acre land was allotted to the project without any lease deed being executed. “Surface right of the land was in the papers only”.
Environmental clearance to the project was not obtained and no physical activities on the ground was initiated in 2013. Pradhan said after NDA Government came at the Centre, “genuine and earnest efforts” and project financials were re-negotiated on “better and advantageous terms”. As per the agreement, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) will have a 74 per cent stake in the project, while the state government will hold a 26 per cent interest. The project will be completed by 2022-23, he said.
Instead of giving tax benefits, the state government will give Rs 1,123 crore per annum for 15 years as interest free loan. This has resulted in reducing the financial burden on the state government from Rs 56,040 crore to Rs 16,845 crore. Pradhan said it was decided to start physical activities at the project site before the formal ground breaking ceremony so as not to repeat the mistake committed by the then state government of launching the project only on paper. For this, all the statutory clearances/approvals for commencement of work were obtained expeditiously. These included environmental clearance and execution of lease deed of the allotted land of 4,567.32 acre for the refinery.