J&K talks of steel plant, New Delhi says they never sanctioned one

Balwant Singh Bhau

JAMMU, May 11: Central government has categorically refuted claims made by the state government about a steel plant being set-up in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Ministry of Steel and Mines has said that neither they ever received a proposal from the state government nor have they any intention of setting-up a steel plant in any of the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir.  It has categorically said that the ministry never proposed to set-up a steel plant either in Jammu or in Kashmir, thus putting a question mark on the claims of the state government.

The previous NC-Congress coalition government had repeatedly claimed that the Union Minister for Steel and Mines had promised a steel plant in Kashmir. These facts brought to light by the present Minister for Steel and Mines who said that neither had ever been a promise made with Jammu and Kashmir about setting-up a steel plant nor had the state government ever approached them for setting-up one in the state.

However, an official of the planning department told Newspoint Bureau that a steel plant had been promised by the then Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan for Jammu and Kashmir in 2008. The plant was meant for Lassipora in Pulwama of South Kashmir. He added that ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had brought the matter out of the cold storage and taken it up with the Steel Ministry of the Congress-led UPA government.

Following this, the official said that a team of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) officials had visited J&K in August 2013 and held detailed discussions with state government on starting the project. He added that  the then Commissioner Secretary, Industries was asked after meeting to send a revised proposal to the Jammu and Kashmir Small Scales Industries Development Corporation (SICOP) for sending it to SAIL.

The state Industries Department, had then repeatedly said that a detailed response would be dispatched to SAIL for further necessary action. But that necessary action is yet to be initiated. And now with Ministry of Steel and Mines categorically stating that there is no such proposal, the recently formed PDP-BJP government would have to dig deep and find out the file which has been pending since the last many years. “The plant was supposed to provide more than 10,000 jobs to skilled and unskilled workers in Kashmir valley,” said a former general manager of SICOP, who claimed that it was SAIL which was responsible for the delay.

He said that when Paswan announced this project, the J&K government earmarked 1,500 kanals of land at the Industrial Estates Lassipora at Pulwama for the plant. A senior officer said that SAIL was trying to keep the Jammu and Kashmir government out of the project. “We insisted that the J&K government should be allowed to merge this project with the state units, otherwise we will not have any share in employment and other important components in the steel plant”, the official said.

Official sources confirmed to Newspoint Bureau that there has been no formal communication with SAIL about the steel plant after the August 2013 meeting. They added that either the proposal has been shelved or whatever happened was neither documented nor communicated anywhere officially. They further said that the steel plant is necessary to address employment woes of Jammu and Kashmir.




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