Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bandhs bruise, industry groans

- Production slumps in rebel strongholds

Ranchi, June 24: Frequent Naxalite bandhs are affecting the mining and industrial sectors in the state like never before.

Sample these

Hindalco Industries Limited, a flagship Aditya Birla Group company, functioned for 165 days in 2008-09. Transport and of bauxite from its mines in Lohardaga and Gumla remained stalled for the rest of the 200 days

Coal supply from the Piparwar mines of Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) disrupted since June 19. Power stations in north India and Punjab State Electricity Board, which survive on CCL coal, have sent SOS for restoration of supply

As if these were not enough, Hindalco vice-president (mines) K.K. Dave who heads the Lohardaga division said the situation would only aggravate in the current fiscal.

Dave said the Lohardaga mines division had never been able to achieve its target ever since the rebels made inroads into the tribal heartland. “Our annual target is 2.5 million metric tonne of bauxite. But we end up producing a maximum of 1.5 million metric tonne because of bandhs,” he said, adding that this in turn took toll on production at Hindalco’s Muri (Jharkhand) and Renukoot (UP) alumina units.

A senior CCL official echoed Dave. He said that production had plunged by 30-45 per cent in different collieries, including Piparwar, North Karnpura and Kargali.

CCL supplies coal to over 20 thermal power stations across the country, besides 40 large, medium and small enterprises. The company, which has set an annual production target of 48.1 million tonne this fiscal, is anticipating a failure if Naxalites continue to sponsor bandhs. Fear runs so deep that CCL officials refused to make any official comment. “We do not want to discuss these things with media. We cannot afford to do business by displeasing the rebels,” said a senior official, unwilling to be named.

The CCL has recently inducted Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel, but that hasn’t improved the situation.

West Singhbhum deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar said not a single heavy vehicle could ply during the recent 48-hour Naxalite bandh. “About 500 vehicles that carry iron ore from the region to different destinations were stranded.”

A senior Tata Steel official said the frequent bandhs were not only affecting the economy, but the very image of Jharkhand. “Iron ore is not a perishable item and companies can double production to meet requirements. But heightened rebel activity is sullying the image of a developing state,” he said.

The wary and worried companies are, however, earnestly hoping that the Centre’s decision to ban the CPI(Maoist) would bring som relief from the scourge of bandhs.

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