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Centre, Odisha govt spar over defence hub

A battle has erupted between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Odisha government over what should get preference--national security or economic development? Rahul Singh and Saubhadra Chatterji report.

delhi Updated: Nov 16, 2011 01:33 IST

A battle has erupted between the ministry of defence (MoD) and the Odisha government over what should get preference--national security or economic development?

The state has refused permission to Proof & Experimental Establishment (PXE), a key Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) facility to test various types of ammunition at the Balasore firing range after the defence ministry didn't clear permission for four private port projects, including a long-pending one at Chudamani in Bhadrak district.

The three other ports are proposed to come up at Bahabalpur, Chandipur and Inchudi. But the defence ministry has objection as these proposed ports fall close to the Wheeler Island missile testing centre in Bhadrak district and the Chandipur Interim Test Range of Balasore district.

A top source in the Odisha government told HT, "We know that the DRDO facility is serving national interest. We are trying to convince the MoD that the state's interest should also be looked into while taking care of the nation's interest."

The DRDO facility-used for more than 200 days in a year-has a notified range of 50 km along the coast and another 50 km extending into the sea. The PXE requires the state government's authorisation every three years to use the Balasore range.

The facility supports development and user trials of tank, gun and other ammunition before it is declared combat-worthy. It has equipment to identify failure modes and analyse data to support product improvement.

As the trials can cause damage to local population and properties, the state has an agreement to ensure the DRDO compensates for the damages. To arm-twist the MoD for no-objection certificates for its ports, it is learnt that the Odisha government has not renewed permission to the DRDO to use the facility.

"When the DRDO started its activities, chief minister Biju Patnaik had famously said, let them go to Nicobar and fire salvoes. The issue of an ideal location has become relevant again as it is hampering our development," said Bhartruhari Mahtab, a BJD MP and the son of former Orissa CM Harekrishna Mahtab.

DRDO sought two other locations in the state to shift its site, but the state government sources said it is almost impossible to give land in any other area.

First Published: Nov 16, 2011 00:18 IST