Jharkhand says land no reason for project exit



Even as Jharkhand Chief Secretary Rajiv Gauba said on Wednesday that land could not be the reason for Reliance Group's exit from the Tilaiya power project, company sources said just 17 percent of the required 2,500 acres was transferred and physical possession was also elusive.

"We can't believe that land was issue for the withdrawal of Reliance from the ultra mega power project. Reliance needed 2,500 acre of land. We have already transferred 478 acres," the chief secretary told reporters here, a day after Reliance Power announced its exit from the project.

Company sources pointed out that while the total land required was 2,500 acres, only 417 acres was transferred, which is is not even 17 percent. Compared with the total land requirement of 17,000 acres, including coal mines, this constituted only 2.5 percent.

The chief secretary also sought to allude to tariff being the real reason for the withdrawal, adding that the company had applied for power tariff revision to Central Electricity Authority in September 2013 and had raised the matter with the energy secretary on April 17 this year.

Company sources, however, denied any detailed discussion on the issue of tariff in the April 17 meeting and that the focus of that was on land alone. "Just a brief mention was made. It lasted barely two minutes. The chair simply put it on record," a company source said.

Another matter raised by the state government on Wednesday was over imminent allocation of 1,200 acres of forest land, which was in the pipeline, and linking the withdrawal to Reliance Group's inability to pay Rs.300 crore for the same.

The company strongly refuted this claim as well. The company official the said price Rs.300 crore was not even intimated and therefore the question of inability to pay did not arise. This, the official said, was a mis-statement to divert the focus away from prolonged non-performance.

Meanwhile, the state government also said there were many suitors for the power project, even as the central government's NTPC, formerly National Thermal Power Corp, staked claim for the 3,960-MW thermal electricity generation venture.

"We are more than willing to come on board," Arup Roy Choudhury, chairman and managing director of NTPC, said on the margins of a conference in New Delhi. "There is a new government. There is a paradigm shift," Choudhury added, referring to the new regime of chief minister Raghubar Das.

Reliance Power had said in a statement on Tuesday that it had pursued in vain with the government for five-and-half years and held more than 25 review meetings. But there was no movement forward. It said that, based on the present estimates, the project cannot be completed before 2023-24.

Even the NTPC chairman admitted to some irritants but was hopeful. "Earlier there were problems and even NTPC faced it. But going forward, these issues will be resolved," Choudhury said at the event of All India Management Association.

The chief secretary said all the deputy commissioners of all the districts and other officials had already been asked to be clear in mindset so as to facilitate land acquisition and the other needs of investors.

"Around 10,000 MW of power plants of both private and public sector are in the pipeline. We are committed to fast-track the process of land acquisition and remove other bottlenecks like forest clearance to facilitate the investors."

"We're here to make the investment process easy." - IANS