Land acquisition plan hits hurdle, India

Land acquisition plan hits hurdle, India
Published: 26 October 2011

Amrit Cement Company, which had earlier proposed to establish a unit at the Kahalgaon-based Industry Growth Centre (IGC) through Bihar State Industrial Development Authority (Biada), was the first company to backtrack on its decision to acquire 60 acres following disputes with landowners. Now, Cement Manufacturing Company Ltd (CMCL), also known as Star Cement, has decided to follow suit.

In a letter to BIADA executive director Bhogendra Lal yesterday, Star Cement vice-president Shivshanker Banerjee urged the former to return INR4.56 crore that it had deposited with the development authority for the acquisition of 60 acres of land to set up a factory at ICG. Biada had earlier planned to acquire over 400 acres of land for IGC at Ramjanipur and Babangama panchyats, about 12km from the Kahalgaon sub-divisional headquarters. Sources at Star Cement said the company was now planning to set up a unit on some private land in the Ekchari area neighbouring Kahalgaon.

"We have been functioning from a rented office with 30 staff for two years. We have been organising free health camps and running a private school with two teachers for those who have lost their land. Besides, we have spent lakhs to get no-objection certificates from various departments and distribute money as crop compensation," a source said. "Nothing concrete has happened despite all this and we are yet to get possession of land," the source added.

Star Cement had pledged to invest INR500 crore in the proposed unit and targeted to produce 1.6Mta. In a letter to BIADA on October 15, the management of Amrit Cement Company asked the development authority to return INR2 crore that it had deposited for its proposed INR60-crore unit. The company also asked BIADA to pay interest for the amount that it had spent to acquire 30 acres of land.

Lal, on his part, expressed concern over the change in the companies’ strategies. "We have asked the district administration to solve the land row. BIADA is determined to set up units at IGC," he said. A district official, on condition of anonymity, said the administration was trying to solve the problem soon.

Cement companies were interested to set up units at the ICG site primarily because of its geographical location. "The Ganga is about 1.5km from the site and the fly ash dykes of NTPC’s super thermal project are barely 2km away. Since both fly ash and water are important components to manufacture cement, the companies decided to set up their manufacturing units here," said Pawan Choudhary, a social activist at Kahalgaon.

"We cannot rule out foul play by some local leaders with vested interests as a factor leading to the land acquisition delay. These leaders have been misleading the landowners, causing the delay in the project. The government should take action against them," he added.