Naveen sends back Posco-ball to Rameshs court

Bhubaneswar: With the state government on Saturday responding to Ministry of Environment and Forest`s (MoEF) queries on Posco project, the "ball" was back in union environment minister Jairam Ramesh`s "Court".

"Yes, after the state government sending its reply to the MoEF, the ball is back in my court," Ramesh told reporters after meeting chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

Ramesh who met chief minister this evening said they had a "cordial" discussion over many matters including Posco, ports, power and others.

Patnaik said the state government had already sent reply to MoEF regarding the "controversial" Palli Sabha resolutions which was submitted with Ramesh by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the body opposing the project.

Asked about the content of the state government`s reply, Ramesh said: "It is a bulky report. Let me go back to New Delhi then only I can speak about its contents."

Ramesh said the chief secretary had informed him that Palli Sabha resolution of Dhinkia and Gobindpur gram panchayats sent to the ministry were "irregular" and "not conducted as per law".

The original and regular Palli Sabha resolutions were annexed with the letter to MoEF, Ramesh said quoting the chief secretary B K Patnaik.

"After receiving reply from the state government on Palli Sabha dispute, I hope that Centre would clear Posco project without further delay," chief minister said.

Ramesh on April 14 had sent a letter seeking clarification from the state government on the claims made by PPSS which alleged that Palli Sabha resolutions passed at Dhinkia and Gobindpur gram panchayats (the proposed plant site villages) on February 21 and 23 respectively were opposed to Posco project.

Hours after Ramesh raising two questions on Posco project at the media conference, Patnaik replied quickly saying: "Regarding the MoU, the state government will shortly meet the formality and proposed raw material linkage for Posco project is sub-judice."

Patnaik also said that the state government had already recommended name of Posco-India for prospecting license (PL) over Khandadhar iron ore reserve in Sundargarh district.

However, the state government`s recommendation had been challenged at Orissa High Court. Therefore, the matter relating to the raw material linkage for the project was delayed.

"Where is the MoU between the Orissa government and the company? There is also no raw material for the project yet," Ramesh had earlier asked.

Replying a question on his differences with the chief minister, Ramesh said: "We do not have differences. The only difference between us is that I am in Congress and he is in BJD."

Ramesh, who promised to visit Similipal Tiger Reserve next month, hoped that chief minister would accompany him, if he was free.