Mamata’s land bank idea, industry cautious

June 10th, 2011 - 4:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, June 10 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s proposal to create a land bank as part of reforms in the acquisition process has received a cautious to upbeat response from the industry, with some saying the idea is good but might be difficult to implement.

To show that she means business, Banerjee announced Thursday that an ordnance had been promulgated to hand back 400 acres of land that had been “forcibly acquired” from farmers in Singur.

Soon after taking over the reins, the Trinamool Congress leader declared that a new land policy will be implemented in the state and stressed that there will be no forcible acquisition of land.

A two-member committee of land reforms expert Debabrata Banerjeee and lawyer Soumendranath Basu has been formed to make a survey of unutilised land in the state.
The expert committee will prepare a land map, which will be the basis for creating a land bank.

The land bank will specify the areas where land is available for industries and thus eliminate uncertainties in the acquisition process — a major factor for industrialisation in Bengal.

Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI) president Sunil Dasgupta said it will be good if the government succeeded in forming the land bank, but said the process could be difficult.

“Both Debabrata Banerjeee and Soumendranath Basu are very experienced land experts. We have full faith in them. It will be easy to create a land map, but forming a land bank in West Bengal will be difficult since plenty of land is not available here,” he averred.

He said only two to three percent of total land in the state was unutilised.

Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd managing director Hemant Kanoria also welcomed the move on the land bank.

“The decision of the government to create a land bank is the right step. There should be segregation between barren land and fertile land. The policy should be different for buying barren land and fertile land. In the case of barren land, owners can cash in by selling it to industrialists,” Kanoria told IANS.

The new regime has also decided to return the 400 acres of land taken from farmers “against their will” by the previous Left Front regime for the Tata Motors Nano small car plant at Singur in Hooghly district.

The automobile major was forced to pull out its Nano project from Singur due to protests led by the Trinamool Congress against land acquisition.

On this decision, Kanoria said: “It is very difficult to comment on that. I do not know how it could be returned.”

However, whatever land was not required by industry could be returned, he said.

“But I must compliment the way the government is working. The new government is taking the right steps and moving in the right direction,” he added.

Kamal Baheti, director of the world’s largest tea producer McLeod Russel India Limited, said: “The steps taken by the new government on economic issues are in the right direction. But it is to be seen how the decision of forming a land bank in the state will be implemented.”

Returning land at Singur to farmers who had sold it unwillingly was the main agenda of the Trinamool Congress during campaigning for the April-May assembly polls, he said.

“Legal matters are associated with it. But if it happens, it will be good.”

“The new government is taking a multi-pronged developmental approach. Creating a land bank was in the Vision Paper of the Trinamool Congress. Having done the hard work, the government is now taking steps to implement it,” Patton Group of Companies managing director Sanjay Budhia said.

Stating that the land bank was a very important issue, he said it was part of the process of converting unproductive assets into productive ones.

Asked to comment on the government’s decision to return land to Singur’s farmers, Budhia, also the chairman of the Confederation of Indian Insustry’s National Committee on Exports, said: “It is ultimately the (simultaneous) development of agriculture and industry. If the government has taken the decision, it must have made all the calculations. The government has been adopting a welcome approach.”

According to the BNCCI’s Dasgupta, “the character of 150 acres to 200 acres of land at Singur has not changed. The government can return that land”.

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

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