| August 20, 2017
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Khetan, Orind Orissa groups holding Magnesite industry hostag

The magnesite mining site situated in Lakuridanda area of Dolakha district. The magnesite mining site situated in Lakuridanda area of Dolakha district. Ramesh Khatiwada/Republica
CHARIKOT, June 16:Industry Minister Som Prasad Pandey monitored Nepal Orind Magnesite Industry at Kharidhunga area in Lakuridanda this Saturday. All the important machineries of the 38-year-old industry seemed to be out of order. Vehicles in the premises and the buildings wore deserted looks. After taking a round of the factory, he reached to the locals who had gathered around.

"Since you have seen all by yourself, please decide if you want to run this industry or remove it and hand our land back to us," said Jeet Bahadur Shrestha, former president of Lakuridanda VDC. Panday took no time in giving assurances that he'd indeed do the needful to bring the factory back to life. What Panday did is not new to the people. Every time new government is formed in the country, Minister for Industry speaks about the factory in the similar manner. "However, we don't know what happens to them later, none of them has ever kept their words," said Panday later while speaking to Republica.


The industry has huge potential. It can directly employ at least 4000 people. It is estimated that it has a capacity to produce magnesite worth Rs 3.5 million in the international market. "Every time new government comes in place, this industry is talked about. Due to its huge potential, the debate cannot be ignored by the officials. Ministers quickly announce to revive it," said Arun Nepal, a local of Sindhupalchowk. "But the words fade away amid power struggle in Kathmandu," he added.

Some believe that the delay in reviving the industry is due to Khetan Group which owns 12.5 percent shares of the company. Nepal does not think differently. "The government has 75 percent of its share the rest is that of Khetan group and an Indian partner Orind Orissa Industries Ltd," he said. "And Khetan Group is not willing to see it revived until and unless things are in its favor," Nepal added.


Nepal stated that the group is powerful enough to influence decision makers. It has such links that the government is not able to decide the fate of the company independently. On May 8, 1999, company employees were suddenly told that the industry was in loss and has been closed. The labors who had returned home after working full hours earlier day were simply shocked.
Even earlier, issues of corruption and so on had brought the industry into controversies. The government is still fighting case with an Indian company after a ropeway, constructed by it, had gone out of order. But the closure was a shock for them.


Khetan Group had shown interest to revive the industry later. In 2004, the group was given a chance to run the industry for 6 months however it failed operate it even during the testing period. Industry Ministry, Karna Thapa had however decided in favor of the group. Thapa's initiative, however never made it. Mahesh Basnet, another Industry Ministry annulled the decision stating that Khetan Group's proposal was not impressive as it was proposing to sell the magnesite below international market rates.

Through the years, a number of big companies have shown willingness to invest in the industry, Ministry officials claim. However, all proposals and initiatives are derailed after the Khetan Group denies approving. "Proposals, which otherwise are very good for reviving the industry are simply ignored by the Khetan and Orind Orissa groups. They are not willing to withdraw their share or cooperate. Due to this, the industry has not been revived so far," said an official on condition of anonymity. "The government does not have the capacity to bring the company into operation. It needs partners to do so. But with the Khetan and Orind Orissa group not willing to opt out, the doors have remained closed for new partners," the official explained further.

Mohan Basnet, lawmaker from Sindhupalchowk - 1 stated that it is important to bid goodbye to Khetan and Orind Orissa group in order to give new life to the industry. He said that the selfish interest of the two has been biggest hindrance. He alleged that the two have already taken enough benefit from the industry by supplying huge quantity of Magnesite to India on the pretext of lab test. "For 'lab test' they have carried away enough Magnesite to India already. So, the government can find the quantity they have exported, charge them for it and relieve them of ownership of the company," he said.

The magnesite mining site situated in Lakuridanda area of Dolakha district.
Ramesh Khatiwada/Republica

Breaker:

Proposals, which otherwise are very good for reviving the industry are simply ignored by the Khetan and Orind Orissa groups. They are not willing to withdraw their share or cooperate. Due to this, the industry has not been revived so far.

An official from the Ministry of Industry