Government constituted task force seeks a rethink on Konkan refinery
The task force set up by the Uddhav Thackeray government to revive the state’s economy during the Covid-19 pandemic has recommended starting the refinery proposed in Konkan to boost employment and encourage investment. The chief minister, however, said that the government will approve projects only if locals are in favour of it.
Prominent economist and government-appointed task force member Vijay Kelkar asked Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to reconsider the proposal regarding the starting of the refinery at Konkan, which according to him, will help generate employment for one lakh individuals.
The chief minister in April had said that the government set up task force, including Kelkar and well-known scientist Dr Raghunath Mashelkar as its members, to help the state recover its economic condition. The proposal came up when members of the Pune International Centre (PIC), a think-tank, whose members are also a part of the task force, held a meeting with Thackeray over video conferencing on Tuesday. According to Mashelkar, proposal on starting the refinery is a part of the report submitted to the chief minister as the post-Covid economic recovery measure. “Based on instructions from the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, we have recommended various measures which include short, medium and long term steps. The chief minister is likely to discuss our suggestions in the cabinet meeting,” said Mashelkar, also president of PIC.
During the interaction, members also discussed other proposals to boost investment and revive sectors like real estate during the Covid-19 crisis. The PIC, according to its director Prashant Girbane, has been entrusted by the state government to give inputs, which the think-tank has submitted to the Chief Minister’s Office.
“Kelkar sought starting the Konkan refinery so that it will create employment for one lakh individuals and bring in an investment of Rs 3 lakh crore. He also asked about shifting the refinery at Chembur to free up the space, which can be redeveloped,” said a release from the chief minister’s public relation department.
Following opposition from the Shiv Sena, the previous Devendra Fadnavis government in 2019 had to scrap a proposed refinery project at Nanar in Ratnagiri. Later, Fadnavis, as the then CM, had hinted that project will be moved to neighbouring Raigad district.
The oil refinery, proposed to be built with 50 per cent investment from Saudi Aramco, the state-owned company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was being touted as the world’s largest refinery, with a capacity of 60-million tonnes an annum, by the state and central government. It was to help in generating direct and indirect employment for over one lakh people.
Responding to Kelkar’s suggestion about the refinery, Thackeray said that for any project to be set up, an interaction with locals and taken them into confidence, is necessary. “Our government will not disrespect sentiments of the local people while bringing any project,” Thackeray was quoted in the release. Besides Thackeray, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and PIC members, including Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, Deepak Parekh, Ajit Ranade and Vijay Gokhale, among others were also present during the online interaction.
“The PIC has submitted multiple reports to the state government in the last four months during Covid-19. These reports are about investment, industry and emergency management. The government has already accepted a few of our reports and have started implementing them,” said Girbane, who was part of the interaction.
Among the other proposals discussed during the interaction with Thackeray were decentralising industrialisation across the state, development along the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi expressway and offering sops such as exemption in tax duty to help the real estate sector.