Utilization of just about 5% of rich bauxite in India can make India world’s 3rd largest aluminium producer, create atleast a crore of jobs in Odisha through development of billion dollar downstream industries towards mining of natural resources, thereby eradicate poverty.
By Anil Agarwal
The versatility of Odisha in culture & heritage, rivers & sprints, festivals, temples, universities & colleges, beautiful beaches, highways & rain-connectivity and rich mineral resources, always excited me. While I visited the sun temple at Konark, Lord Jagannath temple at Puri and few temples at Bhubaneshwar, I realized how majestic Odisha is.
The great visionary late Shri Biju Patnaik had set a vision for Odisha – to be one of the most developed States in terms of agriculture, industries, employment generation, infrastructure development and welfare of tribals.
The State did develop in all directions, but a few districts were left behind, one of them being Kalahandi, the most backward districts of India. Late Shri Biju Patnaik had strong vision to bring Kalahandi into the main stream and this dream stayed with him for many decades.
He motivated me to visit Kalahandi and see the distress economic condition for myself. The abject poverty, malnourishment, malaria, distress sale of babies and necessity to improve the lives of tribals were enough proof of the dismal condition of Kalahandi.
The only way I could bring Kalahandi into the main stream was through creation of employment opportunities and development of infrastructure through the industrialization process.
I realized, India has world’s 4th largest bauxite reserves and Odisha alone is housing about 65% of India’s bauxite. Bauxite mining has been globally accepted as green mining and aluminium as green metal. In natural resources, Odisha has a similar geology and potential that of Brazil, Latin America and Australia.
I decided to set-up a world class 6-million tonne Alumina Refinery in Kalahandi. The State government also showed interest and promised to provide bauxite to the Refinery. India too was awaiting to open up its first large bauxite mine after a gap of 35 years. Utilization of just about 5% of this rich Indian bauxite, in most sustainable manner, could make India world’s 3rd largest aluminium producer.
We engaged with 7000 local people for 7 years to build Kalahandi’s first industrial project, the Vedanta Alumina Refinery and India’s first alumina refinery after a gap of 25 years.
It was time now to build India’s largest integrated aluminium complex in Jharsuguda with 1.6 million aluminium smelter and 4,000 MW of power project. Our plants are extremely modern, equipped with latest and world’s most environment friendly technology.
While pursuing the vision of Late Shri Biju Patnaik, Vedanta had gone ahead and invested Rs. 50,000 crore, the largest investment in Odisha till date.
Vedanta became the catalyst of change in Kalahandi. Employment generation for the locals, infrastructure development like roads, bridges, schools, medical facilities etc. started coming into existence. Vedanta also initiated community service programs to bring women empowerment, child care, health care, agriculture development and vocational training for the locals. Slowly and steadily Kalahandi also started embracing with modern amenities like petrol pumps, gas agencies, ATM machines, shops and cinema halls.
True Potential Yet to Unveil
The Vedanta Refinery is more than 5 years old but the Refinery is yet to receive the promised bauxite from the State Government. As the bauxite is being sourced from other States the Refinery is running at only 40% capacity. Once the Refinery receives Odisha bauxite and it starts operating in full capacity, Kalahandi will be at par with any other economically stabilized districts in India.
Odisha, an Education and Knowledge Destination
I always felt, Odisha has immense potential to make itself another global educational hub by setting international universities that can be bench marked with Harvard and Oxford. It is important to develop young brains into think tanks so that they can drive India into the future.
Odisha also has potential to set-up large conventional centres and exhibition grounds on the lines of India Habitat Centre and Pragati Maidan in Delhi for international exhibitions and as knowledge sharing hubs by Indian and international experts.
My Priorities for India
When I think about India my top priorities remain generation of employment and eradication of poverty. India has enough potential to produce worth USD 400-500 billion in natural resources like oil & gas, gold, silver, iron ore, aluminium, copper, coal, rock phosphate and others. These natural resources are bound to generate substantial revenues, and more than 50% will go to the government. Employment opportunities will also be created for 10-15 crore people, by way of setting-up over thousands of new Large, medium and small scale industries towards processing of these natural resources. GDP will improve, deficit will reduce and a win-win situation for all. It is equally important to invest in exploration to ensure substantial natural resources for our future generation.
(Anil Agarwal is the Chairman – Vedanta Group)