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PM Modi inaugurates India's largest blast furnace plant in Burnpur

The Economic Times:  May, 2015

Burnpur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday dedicated the modernised and expanded IISCo Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India to the nation, at a function here that showed clear indications of improving relations between the Centre and the West Bengal government.

SAIL, which spent Rs 16,000 crore to expand the plant's capacity to 2.9 million tonnes per annum from 0.85 million tonnes, said it would make fresh investments of more than Rs 40,000 crore by 2025 to expand its two steel units in the state. This investment will be part of its plan to more than double overall capacity to 50 million tonnes.

The occasion was marked by an unprecedented show of bonhomie between two popular leaders - PM Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - with each vowing to work together on development issues.

Banerjee was the first to speak at the event and touched upon the need for Centre-state cooperation. "Unity is our strength," she said, putting behind her the previous reluctance to work with the Modi government. "The country will remain together only if development and politics go hand in hand. Bengal was No. 1 in terms of industry. We will have to infuse a new life to industry to revive it," she said. The CM delivered her speech in Hindi - not in Bangla - in what marked yet another friendly gesture.

Taking a cue, Modi hit the ground running. Adding oratory skills to highlight the new glow in Centre-state relations, he said: "It is not about iisco or usko (for this person or that person), but about Sabko (everyone) ... We have to put the nation before politics."

Referring the IISCo plant, Modi said: "A sick unit has bounced back to life and India's steel sector has progressed due to the joint effort by the Centre and the state."

The PM thanked Banerjee for her Trinamool Congress' support to a number of government Bills in Parliament. He said one of the growing accomplishments of his one year in office was a complete change in Centre-state relations, which he said were earlier filled with tension.

The PM linked his government's overall development agenda to development of the eastern states like Bengal, Odisha, Assam and the Northeast, which he said had been neglected compared to the western region. Apart from Second green revolution, the east, he said, had enough fertile land with water to feed the population. He also highlighted his three-pronged economic policy which relies on harnessing productivity of farm land, value addition of mineral resources and tapping the skills of youth and people resources.

Modi arrived in the steel township of Burnpur near Asansol on Sunday morning from Kolkata and drove straight to the IISCo plant to visit the country's largest blast furnace, Kalyani. The recently commissioned furnace, with 4,160 cubic metre capacity, marks the resurgence of Bengal's key industrial belt of Asansol-Durgapur and one of the country's earliest steel plants.

IISCo was once the bluest of blue-chip companies and its shares were traded on the London Stock Exchange in the 1960s. It was taken over by the government in 1972 and made a unit of SAIL in 1978 as part of a nationalisation drive.

Speaking at the event, Union Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said SAIL would raise its capacity to 50 million tonnes by 2025 at an investment of Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

Sharing his company's plans for the state, SAIL Chairman CS Verma said it would spend Rs 25,000 to expand capacity of Durgapur Steel Plant to 9.0 million tonnes from the present 2.2 million tonnes and Rs 17,000 crore to increase IISCo's capacity to 5.6 million tonnes from 2.9 million tonnes.

In addition, Rs 1,500 crore would be spent to set up a 0.5 million tonne facility at Durgapur in an equally owned joint venture with Japanese manufacturer Kobe Steel. The iron ore nugget plant will be the second of its kind in the world - the other is Kobe's pilot plant at Minnesota, US. SAIL is set to sign an agreement with Kobe for the project. The state-run company is also set to commission a railway wagon making unit at Kulti near Burnpur in the next six-seven months, Verma added.