KARNATAKA

Railway projects: team to Centre soon

BANGALORE, MARCH 17. The Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, is expected to lead a delegation of senior political leaders to New Delhi to impress on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, the need to hasten the completion of long-pending railway projects in the State.

The Minister for Industries and Infrastructure Development, P.G.R. Sindhia, told the Legislative Assembly during Question Hour today that the trip to New Delhi will be organised soon after the budget session of the legislature. The State Government has led several delegations to pressure the Centre to speed up the pace of construction of developmental work including railway projects.

Replying to a question from Visveshwara Hegde, the Industries Minister said the completion of the Hubli-Ankola line will assist the industrial and economic development of the State.

In the recent railway budget, a Rs. 5-crore allocation has been made for the project. The Railway Ministry has sought nearly 750 hectares of forestland, and the allotment of land is awaiting the clearance of the Environment Ministry. Work has been taken up on the first 33 km of the project.

Exports

Replying to a question from Yogish Bhat, the Minister said the Government plans to increase exports. A major part of the State's exports comprises software. The Centre, which allocates a special infrastructure development assistance, has apparently not taken note of the software exports from the State and has allotted only Rs. 20 crores for infrastructure. This has been brought to the notice of the authorities concerned and the State is expecting Rs. 50 crores for infrastructure development.

ONGC investment

Referring to the agreement with the Oil and Natural Gas Commission for an investment of Rs. 25,000 crores in various projects, he said the Government will not allow the agreement to be diluted, irrespective of the pressures on the ONGC from various States. As per the agreement, a special economic zone will come up in Mangalore, and Kanara Chambers of Commerce is a party to the understanding. This massive investment is expected to provide employment opportunities to a large number of people.

The State Government recently received the approval of the Centre for establishing a coastal special economic zone. Another proposal for the establishment of a sector-specific special economic zone for information technology industries was submitted to the Union Government recently.

Mr. Sindhia said of the investment commitments of Rs. 5,225 crores made by 44 entrepreneurs during the coastal zone investors' meet in December 2003, projects worth Rs. 2,131 crores have been approved for implementation. In addition, five mega investment proposals of Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd. and another of Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd., for a total of Rs. 21,234 crores, have been approved for implementation in Mangalore.

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