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Fate of steel plants at Bayyaram, Kadapa sealed forever

Fate of steel plants at Bayyaram, Kadapa sealed forever
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Andhra Pradesh and Telangana could kiss goodbye to the proposed steel plants in their respective states. The proposal to set them up is no longer...

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana could kiss goodbye to the proposed steel plants in their respective states. The proposal to set them up is no longer couched in the mists of mystery anymore. The verdict is out: They are not going to materialise. To hell with the AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014 and the promise it had made for the two states.

After a four-year-long cloak and dagger game, the Centre has denied the steel plants which comes as yet another blow to AP which is already reeling under the impact of lack of handholding by the Centre in firing the economy. For Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao too, the development must have been very disquieting.

As soon as the news broke, AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu asked his Kadapa leaders to organise dharnas in all towns and villages in their district even as Rajya Sabha member CM Ramesh who is from the same district vowed to fight for the plant.

The Centre has delivered the mortal blow on the two plants when it said they were not feasible in an affidavit that it had submitted to the Supreme Court after the apex court sought a counter from it on a petition filed by Congress MLC Ponguleti Sudhakar Reddy seeking its intervention for setting up of the steel plants as they were already guaranteed by the AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014.

The development could not have come at a worse time for KCR since he was to raise it along with other issues at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Friday. Though BJP AP state president Kanna Lakshminarayana is riding high horse singing the party line, the news must surely have left some bitter taste in his mouth since it might work counterproductive to his responsibility of leading the party to elections in 2019 and help it make an electoral mark in the state, where its existence is not much to talk about at present

If the New Delhi keeps striking down one after the other the promises made in the Act and on the floor of the Rajya Sabha like Special Category Status, Lakshminarayana too would be having a tough time in convincing the people that whatever the Centre had done was in public interest. Interestingly, he too would be meeting the Prime Minister on Friday, the same day KCR will meet him. But surprisingly, the Union ministry of steel on Thursday evening stated that sincere efforts were on to resolve the issue and set up the steel plant.

Ever since bifurcation of erstwhile AP took place in 2014, the proposal to set up steel plants in both the states remained on the backburner. As it had been included in the bifurcation Act, the Centre had gone through some motions that it had started the ball rolling but it had never ramped up the effort to see that plants would be in place.

It had been a see-saw experience for the people of AP all along. The Centre recently deputed a team of Mecon experts to Kadapa to study the feasibility of setting up of the factory. This team was sent after an initial team of experts from Visakhapatnam studied the prospects of a plant gave an adverse report.

The latest team of Mecon experts led by project manager Kumar Rajan, layout and logistics expert VS Rajan, mines expert Ananda and hyrdo-expert Sasibhushan went around Kambaladinne and Koppair areas in Kadapa. The team studied logistics of how far the nearest airport and the nearest railway station is and submitted its report.

Not long ago, Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, after reviewing the progress on the proposals, promised good news to the people of Andhra state, indicating that the Kadapa Steel plant is coming out of the tight coils of government indecision. He also promised a cold rolled coil steel plant in Visakhapatnam.

AP Mines and Geology Minister R Sujaya Krishna Ranga Rao, who was present along with Telangana Minister K T Rama Rao at the review done by the Union Steel Minister in Delhi, said that the Centre had consented to set up the steel plant in Kadapa district. He even pointed out that the Centre had agreed to the proposal of moving iron ore from Kadapa, Anantapur and Prakasam district.

Interestingly, Ranga Rao said that at the review, the report of Mecon experts was discussed thoroughly, but, now, the Centre in the affidavit to the apex court had said that the survey report was against establishing the plant.

As far as the proposal for setting up Bayyaram steel plant is concerned, the Central government had not been very enthused about it since the beginning. The cs contention is that it is unviable, but the state says the Centre had not made a proper assessment. The state government pointed out that the argument that the iron ore in Bayyaram was of low grade and was in insufficient quantity, did not hold water. The state government asked the Centre how it could set up Visakhapatnam Steel plant when there were no iron ore mines at all anywhere in the vicinity.

It argued that Visakhapatnam Steel Plant gets its iron ore from Bailadila in Chattisgarh which is about 500 km from Visakhapatnam. But in Bayyaram, there is at least low-grade iron ore and the place is located hardly 180 km from Bailadila. A slurry pipeline is enough to move iron ore form Bailadila to Bayyaram and even offered that the state government would finance the pipeline.

If steel plant comes up in Bayyaram, it would provide employment to not less than 10,000 to 15,000 people and would transform erstwhile Warangal and Khammam districts, the government contended. Finally, Singareni Collieries Company Limed (SCCL) had done a survey and found iron ore in 17 boreholes at a depth of 1,140 metres and that the extraction of ore was not economical for setting up the plant.

It is widely believed that if the Centre wanted to set up the plants, it could have done it and that it is no big deal. It is only when one does not want to do something, one comes up with several excuses. If one wants to do it, there would be no excuses at all. If the Central government has turned cold to the need for honouring the commitments in the Reorganisation Act, it could be because of the political line that both Chandrababu Naidu and KCR had taken.

Lately, KCR has been meeting leaders of regional parties is trying to stitch together a powerful coalition that should serve as an alternative to the BJP and the Congress. He is of the view that neither the Congress nor the BJP had done anything of value to help the people lead a life of dignity and comfort.

In fact, KCR is seeking to lead a movement for a total catharsis of the system and rewriting of the Constitution so that the state would have more powers and the Centre would be concerned only with limited areas like defence, external affairs, finance, railways and other infrastructure areas. He does not even want a concurrent list which does not go down well with national parties like the BJP as they want the present set up to continue. It is quite possible that the Centre may not be gung-ho to help the Telangana which has taken an anti-BJP stand.

When it comes to AP, Narendra Modi and Chandrababu Naidu are now bitter rivals. With an intention to wrest leadership of the agitation for Special Category Status from YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Naidu had stepped out of NDA and began fighting a vicious battle with the BJP which the saffron party has not taken kindly to.

Though there is no way to establish that denial of steel plant has got something to do with breaking away from the NDA in case of Chandrababu Naidu or the efforts to form federal front by KCR, it seems it is quite possible as there is no need for Narendra Modi to go walk the extra mile or go out of the way to help either of the two leaders.

If anti-BJP line is the reason for the Centre to put on hold the two steel plants, then it is nothing but abdicating its constitutional responsibilities of honouring the legislation that Parliament had made for which, the BJP as Opposition party then, too had fought.

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