Keonjhar: About 34 per cent of the country’s iron ore reserve is in Keonjhar, but the district has remained backward in terms of socio-economic development of the people.
Even as mining has left its lush green forests and hills damaged, the government has not yet accorded the status of steel district to Keonjhar.
No steel industry has been set up in the district to utilise the iron ore reserves while people have been reeling under deprivation and backwardness, a report said. The locals’ dream of seeing the establishment of the second largest steel plant of the state in the district has been shattered.
According to reports, mineral excavated here are transported to industries in other districts and even outside the state. Though a few people have set up industrial units, they have not been able to run them successfully and failed to provide employment to local people, who are leading miserable lives.
In the wake of the multi-crore mining scam, many industrial units are lying closed or paralysed, it was learnt.
A few companies signed MoUs with the government to set up steel plants, but at subsequent stages the projects went into limbo.
Many mining companies are carrying out their business without setting up units of their own while those who have plants are laying off workforce, but the labour department has turned a mute spectator, it is alleged.
According to reports, Sterlite Industries had signed an MoU with the state government October 15, 2004 to set up a steel plant, while ArcelorMittal did the same December 21, 2006 to set up a Rs 40,000 crore steel plant at Patana in the district. Uttam Gaval inked a pact in 2006 to invest Rs 7,997 crore in a steel project at Bistapal. But none of these MoUs turned into reality.
Industrial giants like Tata, Rungta and Essel managed to take mines on the promise of setting up industries, but they have not yet set up any big units. These companies are allegedly carrying out development work in other states and districts in the field of healthcare, education and other sectors, but not here.
President of Nagarika Manch, a local outfit, Kiran Shankar Sahu said though there is a need for setting up big steel plants to utilise huge deposits of iron ore, the government has not taken the issue seriously, leaving the industrialisation dream of the people unrealised. The dream of making the district developed in steel sector has gone awry, said Mansoor Ali, president of Dharani Chetana Manch, another local outfit.
Now, unemployment has become a major problem in the district, lamented Baroda Prasanna Das, president of Keonjhar Yuba Parishad.
They all demanded concrete steps for setting up of steel units in the mineral-rich district. PNN