Construction of the much-delayed steel project of Posco, billed as the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) into India, is set to start in the next couple of months after the process of handing over about 2,700 acres of land for the first phase of the project is competed by the Orissa government.
Ever since it signed an MoU with Orissa in 2005, the going has been a learning experience for the South Korean company with roadblocks at every step despite land for the project belonging to the state government and the steel project being given importance by the Centre with constant monitoring by the PMO.
Conceived as a 12-million-tonne project on 4,004 acres, the project has now been cut to its first-phase capacity of 8 million tonnes with reduced land requirement of 2,700 acres due to delays in land acquisition and agitation by locals. Even so, state-run Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation has handed over only about 1,700 acres to the company so far with the balance expected over the next few months. The state has also abandoned acquisition of 438 acres of private land over fears it may ignite fresh protests.
“What is surprising in the Posco case is that problems happened despite ownership of land belonging to state. If land free from encumbrance faces these problems, acquisition would be tougher elsewhere,” said an official of a private sector steel company that itself is facing delays on land acquisition.
“Project developers should be patient in India and should allow progress of normal process to land acquisition,” said a Posco official who asked not to be named. But the company did not remain patient in the case of its proposed steel plant in Karnataka, withdrawing the projcet citing delays.