Calcutta-based Electrosteel Castings Limited, at the centre of a foreigner vs local row raging at the site of its upcoming steel plant near Bokaro, had been apprehending trouble for sometime and had even apprised the local administration about their fears.
While revealing this, state industry secretary N.N. Sinha also alluded to the hand of vested interests in the dispute over attendance that was triggered on Monday and blew up into a full-scale confrontation between local villagers and the Chinese workforce of the plant yesterday.
"This kind of problem erupts suddenly and we do not know if there are vested interests working from behind," Sinha said, even as he applauded companies investing in Jharkhand for engaging "highly-skilled foreign workers" in their projects here.
At least three ongoing industrial projects are using overseas talent from China and Australia — as many as 650 Chinese engineers and workers, engaged at various project sites, were currently living in the state.
Calcutta-based Electrosteel Integrated Limited (EIL), which is a subsidiary of the Rs 1,400 crore Electrosteel Castings Limited, has engaged 600 Chinese labourers at Parbatpur, 35km from Bokaro, where they are helping set up a 3MTPA steel plant.
Giridih-based Atibir Industries Company Limited, that's building a Rs 350 crore steel unit of 0.6MTPA, is using 22 Chinese engineers at its site in Mahtodih, about 8km from the district headquarters.
Abhijeet Group's Corporate Power Limited has engaged Shanghai Engineering Power Construction Company (SEPCO) as an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for its 1,200 MW thermal power plant that's coming up at Chandwa in Latehar. At least 20-25 SEPCO engineers are working at the site.
The group has also engaged Australian mining company Thiess with expertise in deep mining activities (beyond 300ft) at the Chittarpur coal block in Chandwa where it has been granted mining rights over 55.34 hectare.
Company sources said once mining would start, they would have at least 50 Australian engineers stationed at the site.
All these company's have their own reasons for hiring foreign expertise. "They are skilled workers who are very fast in their job," said an EIL official, referring to their Parbatpur project.
"We have hired their services on a turnkey basis and given that our project is already delayed, they come in handy for us," he added.
At Parbatpur, EIL has a workforce of 1,800, including the 600 Chinese workers.
But in state that is politically volatile with an unemployment rate that's higher than the national average, using foreign expertise could turn out to be a tricky affair.
"It's probably a cost saving mechanism, but I don't think foreign labourers are wanted for civil or machinery commissioning work for a steel plant," said Lazrus Khess, assistant general manager (projects) of Maharashtra-based Mukand Engineers Limited, a company specialising in such work.
Jayant Jaipal Singh, senior manager (corporate affairs) of Essar Steels, Jharkhand Limited, said without taking local villagers into confidence and ensuring them jobs in the sector, no company can think of prospering in any state. "Moreover, there is widespread resentment in Jharkhand over giving up agricultural land for industry," he said.
May 14, 2009 / Telegraph