Describing South Korean steel giant Posco’s proposed mega 12-million-tonne plant in Orissa as “a project of strategic importance,” Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday said there were no violation of tribal rights in its case.
Refusing to draw a parallel between the controversial Vedanta project and Posco’s proposed plant to be set up in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district, Ramesh said there was no evidence of violation of tribal rights at the Posco site.
“I have promised to hasten the submission of the (Meena Gupta fact finding committee) report by September-end,” Ramesh said, refuting claims that a deal has been struck to clear Posco and stop Vedanta.
Ramesh admitted the Posco project was the single biggest FDI venture and was part of the government’s Look East Policy. “I am aware the project is the single biggest FDI and is of strategic importance. More so as we want to cement our ties with the South Korean government,” he said.
On his meeting with Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday, Ramesh said the chief minister had “exaggerated” on what happened and he had not given any assurance on either Posco or Vedanta.
He rejected Patnaik’s view that the final approval to Vedanta Resources was a fait accompli. “My ministry can’t work on fait accompli. We have to exercise our own judgment as a lot of evidence has come into light after the SC verdict,” the minister said.
Ramesh conceded Orissa government officials who met him on Tuesday were critical of the Saxena committee report but rejected their contention. “The state government could contest many of the observations made by the Saxena Committee. But this will not alter the fact that serious violations of laws have indeed taken place,” he said, announcing his decision to stop mining activity of Vedanta-Orissa Mining Corporation combine.
Denying the accusation that he was acting against the state because it was a non-Congress state, Ramesh said he had approved an irrigation project in the state that will cover 30,000 hectares of land. “Within seven months of applying we have given approval,” he said. The Central Water Commission had approved the project in 2000.