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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, April 08, 2013
Finance minister P Chidambaram on Monday met public sector bank chiefs and business leaders and pored over details of several projects to identify bottlenecks as he pushed to revive economic growth hit by high interest rates and red tape.

“The agenda was to identify the projects that have been stalled. We have identified 215 stalled projects. We have identified another 126 projects which are new projects, to which banks have sanctioned loans but which have not taken off,” said Chidambaram after the meeting. “We are sitting with bankers and the industry to find out why a project has been stalled and I am noting that down to go back and try to remove that block.”

Among others Reliance Group’s Anil Ambani, Essar Group’s Prashant Ruia and Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) chairman Ajit Gulabchand and Tata Group’s business development head Madhu Kannan were present in the meeting. Bankers present included SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri and heads of Bank of India, Central Bank of India and Union Bank of India.

A number of projects are held up in the country due to issues related to land acquisition, gas or coal linkages, environmental clearances, forest clearances and in some cases the inability or the unwillingness of the bank to restructure loans. Projects worth around R4 lakh crore have been stalled in 2012-13 due to want of clearances, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy.

“He (Chidambaram) went into a lot of nitty-gritty (over stalled projects). He was very concerned and overall a very clear mandate was that these projects need to be completed,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman, Aditya Birla Group, after the meeting. “He asked each one of us to talk about the projects and apprise him about the issues.”

“We spoke about the reasons why projects are stalled. Among them, the most important ones are coal linkages, land acquisition and environmental clearance,” said Pratip Chaudhuri, chairman, State Bank of India.

“He said he will take it up with the other ministries and will help to accelerate the stalled projects,” said Vijayalaxmi Iyer, chairman, Central Bank of India.