Building A State Of Confidence

Updated: Sep 21 2004, 08:38am hrs
The manager of a big project flinched as a group of people descended on his site. He was used to being bullied by local goons, extortionists and trade unions leaders. Imagine his surprise when the men turned out to be top bureaucrats and police officers.

In course of the week, this scenario was repeated at other industrial sites. Initially confused and nervous, managers fumbled as they narrated their woes to the visiting team.

The state is host to 50 new projects in sponge iron, pig iron, steel and aluminium with a total investment of about Rs 45,000 crore. But serious security problems are hampering business activity.

Nilachal Steel of Jamshedpur has already upped and left. Arati Steels has threatened to pull out. At Rayagada district, a 1-million tonne alumina project of Utkal Alumina International Ltd has been stuck for years because of resistance from tribals. Sterlite Industries alumina project at Langigarh faces similar problems.

The team took the industrial route from Bhubaneswar to Rourkela, touching the Angul, Jharsuguda and Sambalpur industrial hubs on the way. Then it visited Dubri in Jajpur district, where most steel projects are coming up.

They heard plenty of tales of horror. Officials of Jindal Stainless Steel Ltd said local people pull down their perimeter wall every time they build one. VISA Industries vehicles are intercepted by extortionists demanding money. A general manager has been heckled.

Even the government-owned National Aluminium Co Ltd (Nalco) has not been spared - a militant association of truck owners compels Nalco to use only its vehicles.

The visit of the team came as a morale booster for us, says DSA Raju, the vice-president in charge of project at Jindal Stainless Steel Ltd (JSSL). Now we feel that the government is there to protect us, he said.