Kolkata: Two industrial projects in West Bengal have ground to a halt because the state government had by mistake allotted them overlapping plots in the space of a year.
Steel maker Jai Balaji Industries Ltd and Damodar Valley Corp., or DVC—a government-owned power company—are squabbling over a 100-acre plot, which each claims had been allotted by the state’s land and land reforms department.
In August 2007, the land reforms department cleared the deck for Jai Balaji to acquire 1,135 acres and set up its integrated 5 million tonnes (mt) capacity steel plant in Raghunathpur in Purulia district.
The acquisition was completed and the land given to Jai Balaji last month.
But in June last year, the same state department promised DVC a 900-acre plot for a 1,200MW thermal power plant, not realizing that 100 acres of that had already been allotted to Jai Balaji.
The mistake was pointed out by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corp. Ltd (WBIDC)—the key facilitator for industrial projects in the state—in August last year, when land acquisition for DVC’s power plant was about to begin.
Though the government went ahead and transferred the land to Jai Balaji, work has not started there.
Land has been at the centre of several disputes over industrial projects in Left-ruled West Bengal and other parts of the country.
In September, Tata Motors Ltd decided to move its Tata Nano project from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat after protests by local farmers backed by the Trinamool Congress party threatened to delay the launch of the world’s cheapest car.
In the latest case, land acquisition was peaceful, yet an administrative blunder stalled the projects. DVC says it cannot let go of the 100 acres as it needs to lay a 10km railway track to ship coal to its plant. “Without the railway track, the power plant won’t be viable. We can’t take an alternative route either,” said S.L. Mitra, DVC additional secretary.
The power company had engaged government-owned engineering consultant RITES Ltd to conduct a feasibility study. RITES said a track around Jai Balaji’s steel plant will cost a lot and take years.
“RITES had said an elevated track could also be considered if Jai Balaji agreed,” added Mitra. DVC is up against a tight deadline, and wants to take possession of the land by January-end.
Jai Balaji, however, argues that the proposed railway track will carve up the plot into two. “We aren’t opposed to the power plant… If it comes up, we too will benefit from it, but any steel project needs contiguous land and we have already paid the price for the land... We have also secured the necessary clearances,” said Aditya Jajodia, managing director of Jai Balaji.
WBIDC’s managing director Subrata Gupta wouldn’t comment on whose mistake led to the standoff. “WBIDC wasn’t involved with DVC’s project. DVC was dealing with the land reforms department directly.”
The state’s land and land reforms minister Rezzak Mollah said, “I am not aware of the problem, but such things happen at times with so many acquisitions going on for adjacent plots.”
Aveek Datta contributed to this story.