Patnaik, accompanied by principal secretary Bijaya Kumar Patnaik, took a special flight to Delhi soon after the Republic Day parade at Cuttack this morning. He met Lee at Rastrapati Bhawan.
The impromptu meeting was arranged after Lee sought first hand information about the big-ticket project from the Orissa chief minister. Lee, who had evinced an interest in visiting the Posco site near Paradip, had been advised against the visit as the ground situation is not conducive for a high-level tour.
After the Centre gave its final approval to clear forest land for the project in December, just before the visit of the South Korean president as chief guest for Republic Day, the state government has gone to the people to convince them about the project. The MoU was signed in June 2005, but the project ran into land hurdles and a stiff local movement against it.
Patnaik appraised Lee about the progress on the project. Principal secretary BK Patnaik had reviewed the progress of Posco last week. The state government has recommended aprospecting licence of Khandadhar iron ore mines in favour of Posco-India and though it is now in court, experts say the case is expected to be cleared soon.
On the ground, the state government is processing Posco-Indias application for drawing water from the Jobra barrage for its project work. Meanwhile, Posco-India and the Orissa Power Transmission Corporation Ltd have signed an agreement for supply of 24 mw of power.
Now that the environmental clearance has come though, land acquisition for the project is expected to start after the Rehabilitation & Resettlement package is finalized by the Resettlement & Periphery Development Advisory Committee. The newly enacted Forest Dwellers Settlement Act has also come in the way of diversion of forest land for industrial purposes even though the forest clearance has been accorded to the project.
Sources in the chief ministers office said if the South Korean president insists on visiting the site, the chief minister may not hesitate to invite him. If the South Korean president insists, we will make arrangements for his tour of the project site in Orissa, the sources added.