ArcelorMittal fails to launch operations at Sandur for over 13 year
A complex narrative unfolds in Ballari and Sandur involving the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) and the colossal steel magnate, ArcelorMittal. The intrigue centres on the fate of land allotted to ArcelorMittal by KIADB in Ballari during the period of 2010-11. This pivotal piece of land has become a focal point of contention, prompting KIADB to dispatch a notice in February. The notice carries an ultimatum, urging ArcelorMittal to inaugurate its factory within a designated 90-day window. Failure to meet this timeline would trigger the reclamation and reassignment of the land. As of May 2023, this 90-day ultimatum has lapsed, leaving KIADB in anticipation of ArcelorMittal’s response.
While the situation is rife with complexity, the government’s options remain limited. The project’s intricacies extend to the very individuals who voluntarily surrendered their land to facilitate the establishment of a steel production unit. This group of farmers and petitioners is now asserting their concerns, noting that ArcelorMittal has lodged a review petition with the Supreme Court. The petition underscores a paradox where KIADB contemplates land repossession while the Supreme Court concurrently advocates for heightened compensation to be extended to the farmers. In a symphony of legal maneuvering, KIADB itself has filed a review petition, spurred by concerns of potential repercussions cascading onto other industrial land.
Zooming into specifics, ArcelorMittal secured a significant expanse of land: 1,828 acres in Kudithini and an additional 832 acres in the tranquil village of Veniveerapur within the Sandur taluk of the Ballari district. This allocation, spanning nearly 13 years, has yet to bear fruit in terms of operational activities. In 2017, the government intervened proactively, extending an additional three years to ArcelorMittal to commence operations. However, even with this extended window, the project remains caught in a state of limbo.
Significant legal entanglements weave through this narrative. In 2020, the government issued its initial notice, prompting ArcelorMittal to reference a suit filed by farmers in a civil court as the cause for project implementation delays. These farmers sought augmented compensation for the land they ceded. Simultaneously, a related case was pending before the Supreme Court. In January 2023, the scales tipped in favor of the farmers as the Supreme Court directed ArcelorMittal to provide heightened compensation within three months.
The disquiet among the farmers has rippled through the region, resulting in protests. Farmers from the area have staged demonstrations, attributing the sluggish progress of not only ArcelorMittal but also two other steel industries to their inability to commence production. Their grievances echo promises of livelihoods and jobs that have yet to materialize. For 220 days, these aggrieved farmers, who lost their land in Ballari, have gathered in protest at the District Commissioner’s office in batches of 60 to 70 individuals.
E Tukaram, the Sandur Congress MLA and former minister, has taken a proactive stance on the issue. Having raised the matter in the assembly, he indicates discussions with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Tukaram conveys the expectation that the protracted issue of augmented compensation will find resolution within the span of another 10 days. Despite these developments, ArcelorMittal has opted to withhold comment at this juncture.
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