Posco MoU renewal likely by June end

Bhubaneswar: With the land acquisition work for Posco project near Paradip picking up gradually, the state government has decided to renew the lapsed MoU with the South Korean steel major before June, official sources on Tuesday said.

The state government would renew MoU with Posco before end of June, Steel and Mines minister Raghunath Mohanty said.

"We have decided to hold a meeting soon to take final decision on the MoU renewal with Posco-India," chief secretary B K Patnaik told reporters here.

The next meeting between the state government officials and Posco-India executives, was significant as it would take decision on some serious matters like iron ore swapping, possible change in the water source for the steel plant and reservation of jobs for local youths, they said.

The swapping clause in the previous MoU was considered as an important point likely to be excluded from the original format.

"The MoU had provisions for the export of iron ore which made me deeply uncomfortable with Posco project. I would expect that the revised MoU between the state and Posco would be negotiated in such a manner that exports of raw material are completely avoided," Union Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had said on his May 2 order while according final forest clearance to Posco`s steel project.

Ramesh gave forest clearance with a hope that the state would ensure that the export clause was not there in the renewed MoU.

The June 20 deadline for renewal of the MoU was fixed as the duration of the lapsed MoU ended on June 21, 2010. The MoU between the company and the state government was signed on June 22, 2005. "During the five years time, not an inch of land could be acquired for the purpose," an official said.

The renewal of the MoU was most essential as many people have raised questions on the legality of land acquisition by the state government without having a valid memorandum of understanding.

"Non-existence of a MoU generates suspicion among the local people," said Paradip MLA Damodar Rout.

Meanwhile, the district administration of Jagatsinghpur district today on 10th day of land acquisition, took 67 betel vines into possession and gave compensation worth Rs 4.11 crore to the farmers.