NMDC on Mission to Transform DANTEWADA

NMDC, the largest iron-ore company of the country, is all set to transform the Bastar division of Chhattisgarh, including Maoist dominated district of Dantewada, says SUGATO HAZRA

On August 17th the villagers living in the forest lands near Nagarner, some 30 km from Jagdalpur assembled to celebrate the inauguration of a residential school. This was a fulfillment of a dream never seen by a majority of them. More so for the parents of children who got admitted in the newly set up school by NMDC. For most of them, August 17th was a day which seemed unreal. Even for the people living far away in the glossy cities like Delhi or Mumbai this celebration is too unreal to believe. For them, the area is supposed to be full of dreaded Maoists eager to pounce upon anybody civilized. But the fact is that a celebration without any incidence took place at Nagarner on that day.

Rewind to some background of the area first. The Prime Minister called the Maoists to give up arms and come on discussion table. The policemen in the forests are dying like sitting ducks in their hands. Trains are derailing, passengers suffering and what is more — use of rich resources found in the Naxal-territory is taking a backseat; hurting the cause of local as well as national development.

Perturbed, a certain section of the civil society is asking for stringent measures to finish the Naxal movement. In this backdrop, a Navaratna PSU has been quietly building its steel plant at the heart of Dantewada district, one of the most troubled regions of the state of Chhattisgarh.

How come Rana Som led NMDC is delivering while everyone else is busy looking for a solution?

To understand the secret, one needs to listen to the experience of the team of NMDC officials, who often walked 8-10 km to reach remotest villages in the districts of Bastar, Dantewada, Bijapur, Kanker and Narayanpur to contact the villagers and also to select children who would be taught at the school set-up by NMDC and inaugurated on August 17th.

CMD Rana Som was bewildered when the 55-year old tribal official of NMDC wept inconsolably while narrating their experience after coming back from the villages. Was the trip so arduous, so dangerous, wondered Som.

He was in for a greater surprise when learnt that the official was overwhelmed at the reception the team received. He said, “Never did I receive or hoped to receive such warm welcome from people. They were keen to extend their hospitality, asked us to stay back, extracted promise that we would visit again. Sir, I did not imagine that our effort to select poor children who should be on full scholarship would mean so much to them”.

Perhaps the civil society could learn a lesson or two from this simple narrative.
NMDC, the largest iron-ore company of the country, is all set to transform the Bastar division of Chhattisgarh which include the Maoist dominated district of Dantewada. Not only the Navaratna company is setting up a three-million tonne greenfield steel plant at Jagdalpur, to help the local people to benefit from out of the new factory, NMDC has been investing heavily into creating social capital.

With that aim in view, NMDC inaugurated two facilities — one ITI and a residential school for the local people. “Our target is to empower the natives of the land so that when the steel plant comes up they can assume managerial position in the plant and other facilities coming up in the region,” said Rana Som.

NMDC has completed acquisition of land for its steel plant with farmers providing 788 acres out of a total of 1,500 acres land acquired for the facility. The rest of the land has come from the government. The construction of the plant will start in October this year. NMDC hopes to complete the project in less than three years. Thus, the iron ore of Bastar which hitherto used to enrich factories in far flung areas of the country or abroad will be processed there itself. The resource-rich region can then develop upto its full potential.

Much before the construction of the steel plant begins, NMDC has constructed a residential school for 200 students and an ITI which will initially train 50 students.
These had been recently inaugurated by the Union Steel minister Virbhadra Singh in the presence of the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Dr Raman Singh.

The school has already admitted 200 students selected from the families who sold their land for the project and tribals in the region. Out of them, eighty students have been handpicked by a team of NMDC employees who traveled to remote villages, even on foot, and selected boys from tribal families under the poverty line. Remaining 120 students will come from the neighbouring area.

Apart from providing hostel facility for the 80 students picked up from 21 villages in the remote regions, NMDC has provided buses for the day-students coming from a radius of ten kilometers from the school. Not only that education will be free and NMDC will bear all expenses including on clothes, books, recreation apart from board and lodging. The school will be managed by DAV Public School.

The warmth of poor villagers to the members of the NMDC team, which visited remote villages is a story Som cannot stop recounting.

“Place our experience against the civil society debate on how to use force to bring the misguided local population of the Naxal-region back to mainstream and draw your conclusion,” was what one member of the team felt.

Clearly personal warmth can win the hearts of simple tribals more successfully than the fear of guns. This was what NMDC had discussed with the Union Steel Minister in its quarterly performance review meeting.

“We thought as a responsible corporate citizen we must give back to the land and people what we take from them. Under the guidance of our minister and support from the state we decided to take the intent forward,” said Som.

NMDC has been busy creating educational infrastructure in the region in its effort to plough back the wealth dug from the mines of Bastar region. It provides scholarships to tribal boys and girls, constructed nine hostels and 40 new schools for the students, renovated 21 schools. It has been running an ITI at Bhansi training 108 students every year.

In addition NMDC is setting up two polytechnic colleges at Dantewada and Nagarnar to teach courses relevant for the steel plant.

“We do not want the locals to assume jobs of labourers or low-skilled support staff once the steel plant comes up, hence the effort to educate and train them,” said Som.

NMDC is on a mission to transform the Bastar region from a backward inaccessible underdeveloped region to a vibrant steel manufacturing growth centre. The event-free smooth land acquisition illustrates that the local people too have faith on the effort. It is for the private corporations to follow the example and come forward to set up ancillary industry and turn the nascent dream into a reality.

NMDC to start work on Rs.15K cr plant by December

Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh recently said that construction work of the Rs.15,225 crore steel plant may commence by November-December this year and invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to inaugurate the same.

“Construction work for the plant may start in November-December. I will invite PM for inauguration of the construction work,” Singh told reporters after inaugurating a 200-seat school of NMDC in Chhattisgarh.

“I have asked NMDC to prepare the local people to work in the plant by educating them, training them,” Singh, who also participated in groundbreaking of NMDC’s Industrial Training Institute said.

Present on the occasion, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, “The steel plant, which will see an investment of over Rs.15,000 crore will help in overall development of the backward Bastar region and would also aid in addressing the security situation in the area.”

The Bastar district is heavily infested by naxalites. The CM said the proposal of NMDC for a steel plant here is stuck since past 10-15 years. The Chief Minister expressed hope that projects of firms like Tata Steel and Essar Steel, who have proposed mega investments in the mineral-rich state, could also move forward in next few years.

A Sai Prathap, Minister of State for Steel, who was also present, said that NMDC would be spending a sizable amount on CSR activities to train the local people so that they could be employed in the plant.

NMDC Chairman Rana Som, whose efforts were lauded by Steel Minister and Chhattisgarh CM for taking forward the proposal, said, “The company is at present channelising 2 per cent of its profits towards CSR activities.”

“We are spending about Rs 100 crore per year on different CSR activities like ITIs, Medical college, schools roads in the region,” Som said.

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