The completion of the much-awaited modernisation and expansion project of the IISCO Steel Plant (ISP) of the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) is still a few months away but what is heartening is that the Rs.16,000-crore investment has already begun transforming the area.
Green shoots are now sprouting in an area which until recently lived in the past with little to look forward to. Against the past despondency, there is now a buzz of economic activity which is only expected to get louder in the coming months.
Talk among the local elders would always veer to the good old days when Burnpur in Bardhaman district was home to one of Asia’s premier iron and steel-making facilities.
As the town began to live only in its past, its youth could do little other than despair at the lack of employment opportunities and rue the moribund state of affairs. Slowly and steadily, Burnpur is changing and it is becoming increasingly evident. The ISP upgrade announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 during the first term of the UPA Government had a project cost of Rs.9,600 crore. The cost rose to Rs.16,000 crore.
Of this, Rs.14,000 crore has already been invested. At the peak of the construction activity nearly 10,000 people including skilled hands from within the State and outside were working at the 950 acre plot of the integrated steel plant.
That number is now tapering off as many of the units are ready. The 2.5 million tons steel plant will employ 8,000 people directly.
What is more significant than the direct employment is the fact that with the development of ancillary units the region will once again become the hub of economic activity.
Signs of prosperity are already evident at the overflowing markets and the glitzy malls that have come up in the once moribund area. The State’s coffers too will be boosted by additional revenues to the tune of Rs.300 crore annually once the modernisation project is completed.
Malls have been set up by industry groups and at least three townships and two higher secondary schools have come up, changing the skyline. At least three multinational food chains have dropped anchor in the area where land prices have gone up ten times over the last few years.
No one is complaining. For along with the social infrastructure, physical infrastructure like road projects is also being taken up. Once the project is commissioned by the end of this year, the gains will begin consolidating, cementing the process of regeneration started now.