Abandoned Posco building a grim reminder of derailed FDI

Paradip: A sprawling three-storey building with elegant designing backed up by plenty of open space dots the outskirts of Paradip Seaport Township. There is every reason for a casual visitor to mistake it to be an engineering college imparting B. Tech courses. The closure of this college for summer vacation may strike one’s minds at the first glimpse.

But the elegant building complex, lying unmanned in a remote corner of the bustling port township, is a grim reminder of what has gone wrong with Odisha government’s much-vaunted thrust on industrialisation.

The building complex happens to be the Human Resources Development centre which was set up by South Korean steel major Posco in Paradip a decade back.

While the big-ticket steel venture stands scrapped, the deserted building is the representative symbol of the fate of ‘derailed’ and ‘failed’ foreign direct investment (FDI) project in the form of Posco steels.

The Odisha government after a studied silence of more than four years had made public yesterday the scrapping of the steel venture. A day after the announcement, the Posco HR centre wears deserted and abandoned look today in an ironic twist to the dreams of project-related employment and ushering in of economic prosperity.

In the fitness of things, demand for its government takeover is growing louder with the official winding up of the Rs 52,000 crore project, which was once billed as country’s largest FDI.

“As I walked past the building, it reminded me of the mega venture that never took off following people’s protest. It does not augur well for industrialization scenario in a mineral-rich state like Odisha. The government went overboard in selecting the Posco spot in unusual hurry. If any other uninhabited site instead of rich-agriculture belt like Gadakujang-Nuagaon-Dhinkia had been acquired, the project bereft of landowners’ protest would have been commissioned long ago”, commented a small scale entrepreneur, Ardhendu Rout, who owns a steel fabrication unit in Tarinigada locality on the outskirts of Paradip.

Ten-acre patch of prime land that had been handed over to the steelmaker at throwaway price and the centre had come up on 2007 with the company committing to impart skilled training to local youths for absorption in the steel project.

Since past three years, there was no trace of Posco-India company officials. The abandoned building has become a haven for anti-social elements.

“The government had provided the land to the company at subsidized price for specific purpose of skill development of local people. As it is no more serving the purpose for which the centre had come up, the government is very much within its right to take over the centre building and the land. It could be better used for other purpose as there is paucity of land and infrastructure in Paradip Port Township”, said Pravat Kumar Samantray.

The South Korean steel major had been provided 10 acre patch of land near Jagannath temple on the outskirts of the port township. The company had paid Rs 25 lakh to the government against the acquired land. It had established skill development centre at the allotted land. However the centre had become dysfunctional as the company had kept the steel under freeze for quite a while.

“We have received public petitions urging the administration to occupy allotted land and the building. The competent authorities have been apprised of public demand. Besides the legal technicalities for transfer of the allotted land need to be worked out”, said Kujang Tehsildar, Basudeb Satapathy.