Our Bureau

Kakinada, Oct. 30

With the ONGC reviewing the viability of the proposed refinery and special economic zone project here, it seemed like almost curtains had fallen on the project, but the Union Minister of State for Defence, Mr M. Pallam Raju, who represents the Kakinada Lok Sabha constituency, has not lost hope yet.

In an interview here on Sunday, he said that there were no doubts over the project. He said the Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was making all-out attempts to persuade the ONGC to honour its commitment on the project.

`Some changes'

He said the ONGC had signed two memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on the projects, one with the State Government and the other with the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC).

He also refuted charges that there had been delay in land acquisition and these problems had led to the stalling of the project.

He said the farmers had been persuaded to part with their lands for the sake of SEZ and the initial problems had been overcome.

He said there were some changes in the management of the ONGC and the Union Petroleum Ministry, resulting in a review of the project.

CHANGE OF GUARD

"Earlier, Mr Mani Shankar Ayer, who was heading the Ministry, was not keen on the project, but Mr Subir Raha, ONGC Chairman, was for it. Now, both the Heads - of the Ministry and ONGC - have changed. Mr Murali Deora is heading the Petroleum Ministry. I shall do my best to persuade him," Mr Raju said.

He said the Government was also of the view that agricultural lands should be spared while acquiring lands for SEZs. "We want to set up the project. We are keen on it. I am sure it will come up," he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 31, 2006)
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