Bengal industry disagrees with land panel’s recommendation

June 18th, 2011 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, June 18 (IANS) West Bengal’s industry has strongly opposed the recommendations of an expert committee that government will have no role to play in land acquisition for private industry, saying it would be difficult for them to buy a large chunk of land whose ownership is largely fragmented in the state.

Industrialists and economists said the government should act as the “facilitator” or at least play a “policing” role.
The draft on a new land use policy was submitted by the two-member expert committee, appointed by the new Trinamool Congress-Congress state government, to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on June 15.

It recommended that the state government stay away from land acquisition for private industry other than setting up a minimum price regulator. For private industry, the entire land has to be acquired at the market rate. A market regulator will fix the minimum price for the land.

The expert panel, headed by Debabrata Bandopadhyay, recommended that for a joint venture the government will have to acquire the land as well as find an alternative source of livelihood for the land losers.

“I agree with the recommendation that the government should not acquire land directly from land owners. But the government should play the role of a facilitator. Government involvement in land acquisition is required in the current market situation,” Kamal Baheti, director of world’s largest tea producer McLeod Russel, told IANS.

“At the end of the day, it is not easy for private companies to buy land directly from land owners,” he said.

Baheti said he agreed with the recommendation of the expert committee that multi-crop areas should not be taken for agricultural purposes as agriculture formed the base for the country. Double crop or even more productive land should not be acquired for industrial purposes unless it was adjacent to the main industrial area, he added.

Emami director Manish Goenka said it will be difficult for private promoters to acquire land directly from land owners for big projects.”The government should acquire land for big projects where more than 200 acres of land are to be acquired by private companies. Private promoters can buy land directly from land owners for land less than 200 acres,” Goenka said.
Goenka agreed with the recommendation that a market regulator will fix the minimum price of land for private industry.

“It will be very difficult for private companies to acquire a big chunk of land like 1,000 acres as the land in West Bengal is fragmented. If the industry has to acquire land directly then they have to contact a lot of people. And it will be very difficult to check who are the actual land owners and who hold the legal right to sell,” Shyam Steel director Lalit Beriwala told IANS.

According to him, if much time was lost in finding out the actual land owners, then projects would not be feasible.
Lauding the committee’s recommendation that a market regulator will fix the minimum land price, Beriwala said: “We have no problem in buying land at market price.”

Dipankar Dasgupta, professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute(ISI), said it was alright if the government wanted the private sector to acquire land directly from land owners.He said the government could play a “policing role” to ensure that the land market was working properly.

The expert committee recommended that a new policy called “Nijo Bhumi, Nijo Griha” (own land, own home) should be introduced to provide 6.5 cottahs per family to the 550,000 land less and homeless families across state.

“It is a good plan. It would be a good project if the government is able to do it. For this, there will be requirement of huge land and money,” he stated.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at mithun.d@ians.in)

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