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Patnaik and Pandian sell Nippon Steel’s dream on social media

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The Odisha information and public relation department have shared in social media a video in which chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who is now on a tour of Japan, has been interviewed by his private secretary V K Pandian.

Shot in a multi-story building in Tokyo, the video has tried to send across a message about the government’s dream of getting India’s single biggest foreign investment to set up a 30-million tonnes capacity steel project in Odisha’s Kendrapara district. The project is supposed to be taken up by Japan’s Nippon Steel Corporation.

Patnaik had a dream of setting up a 12 million tonnes capacity steel project in the area after coming back to power in the state for the second time. But it had fizzled out within a few years.

As Patnaik’s video interview with his secretary tries to sell the dream again, it is being greeted with more brickbats than bouquets.

In the video, Pandian is asking Patnaik about the latter’s business trip to Japan and his meeting with the chairman of Nippon Steel. Patnaik, who never feels the need to face reporters’ queries, is quite an at ease answering Pandian’s questions in the 1.29-minute video.

Pandian: “You had a meeting with the president of Nippon Corporation. How was the meeting sir?”

Patnaik replies: “It was a very fruitful meeting. They are going to bring in huge investments to our state by setting up the largest steel plant in India and one of the largest in the world. This will bring in a great deal of investment and (create) employment in our state, and very large revenue, particularly to the districts of Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur….”

Pandian:  “What kind of quantity/ capacity the steel plant is looking for sir?”

Patnaik: “30 million tonnes.”

Pandian: “It’s going to be a greenfield project?”

Patnaik: “It’ll be a greenfield project.”

At the end of the video, Pandian, quoting the chief minister, says that India will get a huge FDI due to Nippon’s project in Odisha. The video has drawn more criticism than praise.

“Steel plant will benefit the state, but first think about constructing cold storages and barrages in the Mahanadi,” Siba Mohanty tweets in response to the interview on Twitter.

 Umakant Das, another Twitter user, tweets: “The the only person (Pandian) who the chief minister speaks to.”

Jack N Jones, another Twitter handle, says: “A commendable job, indeed sir!! Odisha loves you and trusts you!!”

In 2005, the Odisha government signed an MoU with South Korean steel major Posco to set up a 12 million tonnes steel project in the Jagatsinghpur district. But the company withdrew from it after seven years following widespread protests by locals.

Though there has been a stable government in the state for over two decades, the dream of big investment and a steel plant remains a dream. However, according to many observers, the Nippon project dream is being sold keeping the general and assembly elections in 2024 in mind. 

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