NEW DELHI: The BJP-led NDA government showed great speed in promulgating an ordinance to push through the land acquisition act, but an investigation by HT reveals that thousands of hectares of land acquired by the government is lying unused in several states.
In the past 50 years, for instance, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the nodal agency that promotes industrialisation, has acquired more than 85,000 hectares of land. However, it currently has a land bank of about 15,000 hectares which is awaiting allotment. Worse, the land has been lying idle for the past 15-20 years.
MIDC CEO Bhushan Gagrani admitted that it does take time to get land allotments done.
“One of the main reasons that we find ourselves sitting on land for years is that as a policy we have to acquire land across the state. Many areas apart from Mumbai and Pune might not find quick takers. The idea is also to acquire land from a long-term point of view where we see the potential of the area developing in a few years,” Gagrani said.
In Madhya Pradesh, where Shivraj Singh Chouhan has won three straight elections, the state has acquired more land than it has been able to develop. Several companies have failed to fulfil their memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the government resulting in land lying idle. About a dozen companies were given 2000 hectares each for jetropha plantation, a high-yield oil seed used to manufacture bio-diesel. Only one company started a venture leaving about 21,000 hectares of land idle. The state finally had to move in to retake possession of the land.
In Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh, disputes over paying compensation to landowners have stalled the industrialisation process in almost all districts.
The Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) has sold 70% of the total acquired land while the remaining 30% is yet to be developed. On many occasions, the UPSIDC has to acquire land due to political compulsions to develop backward areas. As a result, a large chunk of acquired land has remained unused at places like Banda (Bundelkhand), Rae Bareli and Amethi.
According to UPSIDC managing director Manoj Singh, cancellation is a continuous process.
“We cancel the allotment of unused land. But we also keep on developing land banks to meet the demand. We have developed a land bank of 4500 acres in the past two years,” said Singh.
The Narendra Modi government which took the ordinance route to push the Prime Minister’s ‘ Make in India’ project has seen stiff opposition on the land acquisition act, not just from the Congress party but also from Anna Hazare who led a protest against what is being termed as an ‘anti-farmer move.
One state where most of the acquired land has been allotted is Gujarat where Modi was chief minister for three terms till the Lok Sabha elections in May 2014.
Unlike other states surveyed by HT, Gujarat has only 500 hectares of idle land. This is vastly different from other states where industrial projects are delayed partially due to the apathy of the entrepreneurs and partially because the industrial development bodies are dependent on local municipal bodies for essential infrastructure like roads and electricity.