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Business Standard Odisha Round Table: Call for holistic vision to tackle land challenge

Panelists say solution can be found through inclusive growth

BS Reporter  |  Bhubaneswar 

(From left) T V Narendran, MD, Tata Steel; Ashok Panda, minister for tourism & culture; Debi Mishra, minister for industries; Ansuman Das, CMD, Nalco; A N Sahay, CMD, MCL; and Jagadananda, founder and mentor, CYSD, at the Business Standard Odisha Rou
(From left) T V Narendran, MD, Tata Steel; Ashok Panda, minister for tourism & culture; Debi Mishra, minister for industries; Ansuman Das, CMD, Nalco; A N Sahay, CMD, MCL; and Jagadananda, founder and mentor, CYSD, at the Business Standard Odisha Rou

Industry leaders and policymakers emphasised on holistic efforts to tackle all issues related to land acquisition, as it is indispensable for industrialisation.

With people in rural and tribal areas sharing a deep emotional bond with their land, experts at the Business Standard Odisha Round Table- 2014 reached a consensus that the land conundrum could not be tackled either by industry or the government alone.

"For industry, land is an important issue. It is also an emotional subject for the land losers. But we are not the best people to solve the multiple issues surrounding land acquisition. The private sector is not equipped to go out and talk to the people in villages, where there are multiple voices, multiple issues," said T V Narendran, managing director, Tata Steel, at the first session, "Tapping Odisha's Potential for Growth".

Narendran stressed on collective efforts by the industry and government to find a solution to the problem. He admitted that while Odisha is one of the richest parts of the country below the ground, it has not translated into wealth above the ground and attributed it to lack of collective resolve.

"Land is not only cost but time as well. China builds a steel plant of five to 10 million tonnes in three years. We take much longer. But the China way of growth has its downside as well. We are a democracy and the government, industry and civil society need to work together to overcome the land challenge. You got to be fair to the government, industry, people and civil society," he said.

Ansuman Das, chairman-cum-managing director of National Aluminium Company (Nalco), said, "Industry people are not groomed to deal with the public. That is something which the government, the bureaucrats are good at. People have a lot of emotional attachment with their land. Everyone wants industry but not in their backyard."

Das said there should be clarity before industries are invited to the state.

"When the industry is brought in, it is shown a rosier picture. But, the moment you start ground-breaking, problems crop up. Then, there are time overruns, leading to cost overruns. The government has clear policies but they have not percolated to the district administration and local level," he added.

A N Sahay, CMD of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, said the biggest challenge was to relocate people from coal-bearing areas.

"If land is available and clearances are in place and there are no evacuation issues, MCL can reach a production level of 300 million tonnes of coal in the next 15 years. But land is a big issue for us because it is site-specific. We have to mine the land having coal reserves. Unless people are shifted, mining cannot happen. And, shifting is very difficult since people have an emotional attachment with their land," he said.

Jagadananda, founder and mentor of Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), an NGO, underscored the need for a complete, holistic and inclusive growth process in Odisha.

"Industrialisation per se is not bad. But the kind of consultation, which is needed with the people at the panchayat level, is not happening. The district administration that is supposed to play an umpire's role is often siding with the industry," he rued.

State Industries Minister Debi Prasad Mishra said the remedy lies in building confidence in the community, imparting skill education to young professionals and appeasing the landholders through creation of a value chain by the industry that generates gainful employment. The minister admitted that land acquisition was a challenge everywhere, but the scenario was better in Odisha compared to other states.

Minister for Tourism and Culture Ashok Panda rued the lack of Centre's support on airport and rail infrastructure that were impeding the growth of tourism sector in the state.

At the second session on "Road Ahead for Odisha: Challenges and Opportunities", the focus was on diversifying investments and ease business facilitation in the state.

"There are certain pitfalls if we plan to develop a strategy purely based on natural resources. We need to have a balanced strategy for sustainable development. More than a natural resource-based strategy, I would emphasise on human resource-based strategy for Odisha," said Chief Secretary G C Pati.

On the stalemate over raw material supply to industrial units, G Srinivas, state steel and mines secretary, said, "We don't see any kind of problem in sorting out the raw material issue in the near future." He said it was envisioned to scale up the state-run Odisha Mining Corporation's (OMC) iron ore output to 20 million tonnes to help meet raw material need.

Subhrakant Panda, managing director, Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys Ltd (IMFA), and chairman of Ficci's Odisha chapter, stressed on making efforts to move ahead on ease of doing business. "Odisha is particularly a harder state to do business compared to other states since a bulk of the industrialisation is mineral-based and the sector is passing through a phase of turmoil," he said.

R K Sharma, state forest and environment secretary, spoke on challenges faced by the industry to get people's approval for their projects during public hearing. Before holding gram sabhas, people will list out their demands and conditions to be fulfilled for their consent for projects, he pointed out.

First Published: Sat, November 15 2014. 21:31 IST