Sukhbir dispels fears of mittal’s pull-o

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Old 01-Apr-2009
Sukhbir dispels fears of mittal’s pull-o


Bathinda April 1:

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal denied reports that steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has threatened to pull out of the Bhatinda refinery project. Mittal, he told reporters, has merely asked for more incentives. The Rs 18,000-crore joint venture, he claimed, will be completed with collaboration from Mittal.

While officials of Guru Govind Singh Refinery Ltd. ( GGSRL), a joint venture of Hindustan Petroleum and Mittal Energy, were tight-lipped, reports in the media suggest that Mittal has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding incentives at par with those provided to Bharat Petroleum’s refinery in Madhya Pradesh.

A senior officer said, “Work is progressing and the project will be completed in stipulated time frame of March 2011. Fabrication of tanks, which form about 50 per cent of the project, is progressing as per schedule”.
A visit to the project site showed civil, mechanical and electrical works have been accelerated following two recent visits of Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh who settled some problems of execution of the project on the spot. The joint venture has spent more than Rs 4,500 crore so far and also placed orders for machinery and equipment worth about Rs 11,000 crore, he said during his visit last month.

Two contractors have been given job of laying the 1,012-km-long cross-country crude oil pipeline between Mundra (Gujarat) and here with single-point mooring and crude terminal at Mundra. Contract has been awarded for captive power plant of 153 MW and 702-tonne steam generation to BHEL with 30 months’ schedule.

However, residents of neighbouring villages are apprehensive about the fate of GGSRL that over the years has come to be known as “jinxed”. The project, announced in 1995, got delayed due to political changes. The fate of the project changed with every new government in the state. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee finally laid its foundation stone in March 1998. But work on the project did not take off as the Congress came to power. Initially, the project was the baby of Hindustan Petroleum; Mittal joined two years ago.

It was believed the jinx had broken with Mittal acquiring 49 per cent stake in the project in March 2007, but a new controversy has put a question mark. The coming of Mittal had pushed up land price in neighbouring villages of Punjab and Haryana and job avenues also opened in the area. Mittal’s letter has created scare in the villages of Ramsra, Rama Mandi, Phulohari and Rattangarh (in Punjab) and Desu, Kalianwali, Dabwali and Narang (in Haryana) that were providing labour and whose economy was linked with the project.

Experts believe having suffered huge losses due to international meltdown, Mittal might be trying to find an escape route to avoid further loss. Seeking concessions for the project is not new, then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had asked the Centre to bear the cost of the GGSRL to make it viable. He had said if the refinery needed tax concession, to ensure its viability, then the Centre should forgo part of its earning rather expect Punjab to bear the cost. The HPCL, which was at that time implementing the project, was finding the refinery unviable without major sales tax relief of 600 crore per annum for 15 years.

Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, for whom the stakes are high as he has been describing the refinery as major achievement of the government, said Mittal had simply asked for incentives and was unlikely to pull out on the issue.

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