Lays foundation for the Pachpadra oil refinery

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday laid the foundation for a nine-million tonne oil refinery-cum-petrochemical complex here, which would bring immense benefits to the economy of Rajasthan.

The Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) project is expected to be completed in the next four years at a cost of Rs.37,230 crore.

The Union Cabinet on Friday approved the setting up of the refinery after the HPCL signed a joint venture agreement with the Rajasthan government. The proposed refinery will be a subsidiary of HPCL with its equity of 74 per cent to be held by the public sector Navratna company and 26 per cent by the State government.

Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily, Minister of State Panabaaka Lakshmi, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Barmer MP Harish Chaudhary, AICC general secretary Gurudas Kamat and Pradesh Congress Committee president Chandrabhan were present at the function.

‘Stimulate growth & prosperity’

HPCL officers and local politicians described the establishment of the much-awaited refinery, which would utilise crude oil excavated in western Rajasthan, as creation of a new “energy landscape” stimulating the desert region’s growth and prosperity.

Ms. Gandhi, addressing a huge gathering largely comprising the villagers attired in traditional and colourful costumes, said the “revolutionary project” would open up new avenues of growth and create 25,000 employment opportunities.

The UPA government had taken steps for people’s welfare through schemes and legislative enactments on right to information, right to free education and right to get employment in villages. The latest steps were the Bills on food security and land acquisition being passed in Parliament, she added.

She affirmed that the ruling coalition believed in secularism and inclusive growth as the cornerstones of governance.

“The meaningful development is only possible in an atmosphere of peace and communal harmony,” she said in an apparent reference to latest incidents in Muzaffarnagar.

Ms. Gandhi also praised the Gehlot government for taking several pro-poor measures through flagship schemes in health care, education, social security, pensions and infrastructure.

“Rajasthan is the first State offering free diagnostic tests to every patient visiting the government hospitals,” she pointed out.

Mr. Moily said the Pachpadra refinery would contribute 22 per cent to the total oil production in the country after becoming fully operational by 2018. It would also bring in Rs.20,000 crore worth of royalty and other benefits to the State. The refinery will process 4.5 MMT of Mangala oilfield crude and 4.5 MMT of crude sourced from elsewhere.

Protest

The controversy over selection of land for the refinery had its shadow over the foundation stone laying ceremony. Villagers in Leelala, where the refinery was originally proposed to be constructed, laid their own foundation stone in protest on Saturday. The Refinery Bachao Sangharsh Samiti said the ruling Congress would “face the ire” of people of the region in the coming Assembly elections.

Ms. Gandhi later laid the foundation for a mainline electric multiple unit coach factory in Bhilwara and addressed a rally in the nearby Gulabpura town.