Bhubaneswar: Tata Steel Ltd’s six million tonnes (mt) Kalinganagar steel project in Orissa will be commissioned in two years. It will be the company’s second greenfield integrated steel plant—after the 100-year-old Jamshedpur one—and reflects Tata Steel’s success in managing land acquisition woes that have laid many other projects low (including its own small car project in Singur, West Bengal).
Challenges remain. P.K. Ghosh, chief (Orissa project) for Tata Steel, spends long hours monitoring the progress of construction at Kalinganagar and the relief and rehabilitation (R&R) of local landowners, who have made way for the Rs 34,000 crore project. The 42-year-old Tata veteran, who managed the expansion of the company’s Jamshedpur plant and who has to do all this by October 2013, spoke to Mint on how Tata Steel has managed the land issue at Kalinganagar. Edited excerpts:
With construction of the plant at Kalinganagar under way, what is the biggest challenge you face?
The biggest challenge we face now is to complete construction in the scheduled time. Since we are building a greenfield plant, we have to keep in mind the volume of work that is involved.
That is the biggest challenge—to get the right mix of people, right type of contractors and the right type of construction companies. Our commissioning will start by October 2013.
Slow progress: Ghosh says the biggest challenge Tata Steel faces is completing the construction of the greenfield plant on schedule
There will be some facilities that will come a little earlier and some that may come a little later. It’s not a stand-alone unit; it’s an integrated steel plant.
We have made a good start. We have already started working in three of the main production units. Once the monsoon gets over, by September-October, we intend to start working on each and every production unit.
What will you do if your technical partner Nippon Steel backs out of this plant? Recent news reports have the company saying that it will team up with Sumitomo for its Indian ventures and may drop one Indian partner.
I would not be able to comment on it, maybe you have to ask our executive committee. But as far as our project is concerned, we are going ahead on our own. We have the capability (to build it on our own); it’s not a problem.
You’ve managed the land acquisition and rehabilitation issues reasonably well. Do you think this will help you build your proposed steel plants in Chhattisgarh and Jharkand?
We have learnt so much. Our human resources team, our land (acquisition) team and our project team—everyone has picked up something. Definitely, it will be of use. Every place has its own unique issues, but on a generic basis I’m sure whatever learnings we have had about communicating with people, capturing the aspirations of the people, can be used elsewhere.
We conducted sustained grass root-level communication. We were able to explain to them (local people) what it would mean to the community and the economy of the region when the steel plant comes up. We used multiple channels of communication, engaged specialized agencies to communicate, collected information, and tailor-made various relief and rehabilitation (R&R) packages.
(Tata Steel’s spokesperson adds that Nippon Steel provided the layout design of the plant.)
Still, it wasn’t without incident. There was the well-publicized confrontation with villagers in 2006 that led to police firing and 14 deaths. Did the trust you had built erode? How did you get it back?
We were given to understand that the government would do R&R (work) and that we could just go and build the plant.
When the unfortunate incident happened, the management decided that we would do the R&R (ourselves) and that this would be an extra investment. That is when a communication team was formed with the Ho community (the dominant group of local residents) members and women from our Jamshedpur plant. We mapped every family and had the women talk to them.
There’s still the problem of relocating 808 people (over 200 families) on your site. Does that not pose a big challenge?
It would not be correct to say they have agreed to move. We are in constant dialogue with them. We shifted over 900 families without any problem. The same kind of approach is being pursued with the remaining people on the site. They are not openly resisting (our efforts). Over a period of time, we will be able to communicate to them the benefits of moving.
Is it not risky to build your plant before the land is fully vacated?
There is always an element of risk. We assess the severity of the risk. We decide what the mitigation measures could be. So we have done all that and we are, at the same time, in touch with those who have not moved. It is their land and they are emotionally attached to it. Once we are able to convince them that we will be able to offer them a better life, I trust they will come over to our side.