Ballari: The Sajjan Jindal controlled, JSW Steel, which produces 12 million tonnes of steel and hopes to eventually to become the biggest steel production company in the country, is currently in the eye of a storm over the sale of land in Ballari to it by the state government allegedly at a throwaway price.
The company operates in Toranagallu, Vaddu, Kurekoppa, Moosinayakana Halli and, Yarabanahallli on flat, barren, rain- fed agriculture land and not on an iron ore mining field as claimed. It was in 1996 that the government first allotted 3695 acres to it at the then market price of Rs.45000 an acre through the KIADB and reserved another 250 acres for its allied industries at the rate of Rs 65,000 an acre. Later, the state Cabinet took a decision on January 13, 2005 to allot another 2000.58 acres at the rate of Rs 90,000 per acre.
The controversy, is, however, over the latest Cabinet decision of May 27 this year to sell 3667 acres to the company at the rate of Rs 1,22,200 to 1,50,635 an acre. It was Gadag Congress MLA and former minister, H K Patil, who first objected to the sale, pointing at the pending legal tussle between JSW Steel and the state-owned Mysore Minerals Ltd over an alleged breach of an MoU entered between them in 2012.
While MML argues that JSW owes it Rs 1172 crore with interest, JSW claims MML owes it Rs 270 crore. The case is still being heard. But Mr Patil, who shot off three letters to the government within a week opposing the land deal, provided ammunition to the BJP to target the government and see a "huge scam" in it.
But denying the allegation, revenue minister, RV Deshpande says there is no question of favouring anyone. "The decision is in line with our policy. The company has fulfilled all the conditions for executing the absolute sale deed. In fact, it has invested more than it was supposed to," he maintained.
"All those opposing this land sale are outsiders and ignorant of the facts," agreed an industrialist, who runs a sponge iron plant in Ballari. Top officials of JSW too describe the opposition to the Cabinet decision as 'political'. "This is not the first time we are getting land from the state government. Land was given to us on lease-cum-sale basis twice. The matter has been blown out of proportion for political reasons," they claimed.
Mining industrialist, Hothur Mohammed Iqbal notes that it is the government's job to provide land, water and electricity to investors. "I appreciate the JDS-Congress government for going ahead with transferring the land to JSW and creating a positive atmosphere for industrial growth," he added....