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Govt sends more forces for Bhilai plant

After reports suggested that the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) might have to close the Bhilai plant due to threats from Maoists, the union home ministry has approved deployment of four battalions of paramilitary forces – two from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and two from other forces – at its Rowghat iron ore mine in Chhattisgarh to begin the Rs 5,000 crore development work.

'Yesterday, there was meeting in the home ministry. The chief secretary, Chhattisgarh, and Director General of CRPF also attended. [The home ministry is] giving us four battalions,' the steel minister Beni Prasad Verma said on Tuesday.

SAIL had approached the home ministry for deployment of five battalions of the CRPF to guard its Rowghat mine in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region while commencing the mine development work and was willing to foot the bill.

Despite getting all clearances way back in 2009, SAIL could not start the project, which required felling of around 1.5 lakh trees. Local Naxalites had declared that no trees would be cut and there would be one person killed for one tree cut. SAIL had started clearing forests, but since October, 2010, it could cut down only 12 trees.

'SAIL did not have sufficient force to ensure support to the state forest department to cut the trees. Now, Home Ministry has agreed to deploy four battalions. Those will secure the area so that the forest department of the state government can fell trees and work on the rail line could be started,' the steel secretary D R S Chaudhary said.

The Rowghat mines, spread over 2,000 hectares of land, are estimated to have over 500 million tonnes iron ore reserves and is crucial for meeting Bhilai Steel Plant's (BSP) iron ore needs. Presently, the Bhilai plant sources its requirement from Dalli-Rajhara mines, which is fast depleting.

Incidentally, SAIL is raising production capacity at the plant as part of its Rs 72,000 crore capacity expansion plan.
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