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WB land policy in Bengal Chamber agenda

03 July, 2013


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In a fresh recommendation termed ´Draft Investment and Industrial Policy of West Bengal 2013 - Final Recommendations to the Government of West Bengal´, ahead of the formulation of the industrial policy of the government, the chamber said the present process of land conversion for industry and urban infrastructure is time consuming.

It has said the process is cumbersome and as a result it is very difficult for entrepreneurs to set up new industries, as well as townships.

Highlighting some of the problems,the Chamber said there is delay in mutation, conversions and other process by Land Department offices.

Presently when an entrepreneur, for setting up an industry, purchases land, he applies for mutation in the land office which is normally, the BLRO. Presently, there is no time limit as to how many days it will take for mutation of the land. Sometimes it is done in a month or two but most of the time it takes 6-8 months, the chamber said.

Most of the land purchased by entrepreneurs are recorded as agricultural land and therefore before starting the construction of the unit or even before applying for approval of the plan for construction of the industry, one requires conversion of the land in the land records. Here again, there is not fixed time, the Chamber claimed.

There are instances where 3- 4 years have passed but conversion is not being done. Without conversion of land, the entrepreneur cannot get bank loan and cannot start construction, said the Chamber.

"If the mutation and conversion takes 3-5 years, how a person can put up an industry. In some of the cases under pressure, the entrepreneur has started construction without conversion, and there it becomes more difficult because there is no provision for "post fact" conversion," the Chamber said in its recommendations drafts.

"It is necessary that there must be accountability and time limit for disposing of the applications for various processes by Land Dept. offices. It is very much necessary to simplify the process of mutation, conversion and other process," it said.

The second issue raised by the chamber is that of the problem of land consolidation.

"Unfortunately the lands available in West Bengal are very small parcels. Many of the time, the land owned by land owners are as small as is 2 Decimals. Therefore, any person putting up an industry has to buy the land from so many people and consolidate them," the Chamber stated.

"When the entrepreneur starts buying the land, it does not remain a secret and lot of land brokers or other people in the locality start buying land in between, the project area. Thereafter, they start blackmailing the entrepreneur and those people become a kind of unwilling seller but, they are not actual farmers. Those people just buy the land for speculation and to blackmail entrepreneur for short term gains," it added.

They ask 20-30 times the value of their land.

The Chamber said it does not want any force-able acquisition of land by the government but has suggested a policy to solve this problem.

"Our suggestion is that the entrepreneur can always plan to buy a little extra land as contingency and in case certain people are not willing to sell their land holdings, they should be asked by the government to relocate their land holdings on one side so that the balance land can be consolidated," the Chamber said.

The Chamber has also recommended to support for Industry Scheme and Financial Incentives by incentivising units through long term tax reliefs instead of direct subsidies and bench mark it against the best available in other states.

It has also recommended changes on real estates, infrastructure, tourism, agro-processing, and manufacturing among others.

It has recommended that along with government´s IT and ICT policy, electronics industries also should get some incentive to grow as for the hardware sector.

But the main focus of the recommendations has been the land policy in West Bengal.

However, it should be taken into account that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is strongly opposed to land acquisition policy for setting up industry.

Banerjee´s movements over Singur and Nandigram brought her to power in 2011 when she unseated the 34-year-rule of the Left Front government.

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