Recently, two major industrial projects in Orissa have been stopped by the NFRA committee- Vedanta’s proposal to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills and POSCO’s proposal to set up a giant steel facility in Paradip. Well, it is hot news in the engineering and industrial community. While I welcome the decision whole heartedly, the question remains – Is it just standards that led to this decision by the government?
Well, Orissa has been ruled by Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal for over a decade now. He has certainly inherited the goodwill of his father, late Biju Patnaik, but what eventually has paved his way in winning three successive elections is his way of work. Orissa is rich in minerals. The BJD government made it very clear that it would prioritize mining applications by companies that didn’t just take the mineral out of the state but also refined and processed it within Orissa, set up a value-addition facility and created jobs. This plan worked! In the past six years Orissa has drawn investment close to one hundred thousand crore! During 1970s, India managed to have a GDP of 3.5 per cent a year. Orissa barely managed 1 per cent GDP growth rates. In recent years, Orissa has even touched double-digit growth figures! Suddenly, Orissa has emerged as the growth engine of eastern India!
Now let’s understand Orissa from the political grounds. Just before the state elections in 2009, BJD dropped its support from the BJP. Both Congress and BJP hoped that a hung assembly would force Patnaik to partner one of them. That year, the BJD allies won 110 seats in the 147-member legislative assembly. As of date, BJD has become virtually unstoppable in the state of Orissa.
If this trend continues, not only will Orissa become richer and its state government collect more taxes, Naveen Patnaik and the BJD will become invincible. The standards of Vedanta and POSCO certainly is a reason for government’s denial for setting up their industries. But the truth remains- it is not the only reason!