Paradip refinery: Logjam continues

Bhubaneswar: It has been an interminable wait for big-ticket projects in Odisha. Posco and Arcelor-Mittal steel projects have been in cold storage because of myriad factors. Amid the gloomy industrial scenario, the IOCL refinery project at Paradip offered a rare ray of hope as construction had commenced and the Rs 30,000 crore project was scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2013. But the refinery project too has hit roadblocks with the Jagatsinghpur district administration preferring to be a mute spectator.

A face-off between the CISF personnel guarding the IOCL complex and a group of “labourers” sparked off law and order problems at the project site on July 2. Had the district police intervened promptly, the face-off could have been averted.  But the tragic turn of events culminated in the CISF firing injuring six labourers and two other locals. The CISF firing has predictably halted work at the IOCL site.

IOCL refinery authorities met Home Secretary UN Behera on Thursday to break the logjam. The executive director of the Paradip project minced no words when he ventilated his ire before the media. The executive director said, “Had the Jagatsinghpur district administration taken timely steps, all the problems relating to the project could have been resolved”. Home secretary UN Behera has assured the IOCL authorities that the district administration would take whatever steps needed to maintain law and order at the project site.

The Government of India approved the IOCL project in 1998. Project cost of the refinery project has escalated from Rs 8000 crore in 1998 to nearly Rs 30,000 crore now. IOCL was the only mega-project which was making discernible progress while work at Posco project came to a grinding halt and Arcelor-Mittal project has been mired in land acquisition problems.

Odisha’s reputation as an investment destination will suffer a big blow if a public sector project like IOCL’s refinery faces rough weather to construct its most modern refinery in eastern India.