"Partners in progress"

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2005

-- Mittal Steel Jharkhand government

On October 9, 2005, the government of Jharkhand splashed a full-page advertisement in virtually all major English dailies of the country. The ad welcomed the uk- based steel baron L N Mittal into the state. Usually, such salutations are reserved for the President, prime minister, or perhaps, luminaries of national-level political parties. Why then was the Jharkhand government breaching this unwritten protocol? Simple, it has ambitious plans to make Jharkhand, the country's 'steel state'.

In recent times, the state government has gone on a steel plant overdrive. It has signed memoranda of understanding (mou) with Tata Steel for a 12 million tonne (mt) plant, with Jindal Steel for a five mt plant and Essar Steel for a 10 mt plant.And then just before it feted the world's largest steel company owner, the Jharkhand government signed a mou with Mittal Steel -- L N Mittal's company -- for a 12 mt plant. The blitz sealed the state's victory in the tussle against its neighbours: Orissa, West Bengal and Chattisgarh (see 'Spark in the Soot,' Down To Earth, June 30, 2005).

In August 2005, Mittal Steel wanted to set up a 10 mt plant in Jharkhand. But the conditions set by the company proved a bottleneck. Mittal Steel wanted to export out of Jharkhand, 30 per cent of the iron ore reserved for the company. But Arjun Munda, Jharkhand's chief minister had declared, "We won't allow private investors access to our iron-ore, if they are taken out of the state".

But that's past. The new deal, the ad claims, will make Mittal Steel and the Jharkhand government "Partners in Progress". What does that really mean for Jharkhand? Only time will tell.

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