Bogged down by its policy to not acquire land in a forceful manner, which affected private industries as well as infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and power plants, the West Bengal government has now decided to buy land directly from farmers — something that rarely happened under the Congress and Left Front regimes.
On November 24, the state’s Land Reforms Commissioner and Additional Chief Secretary Amarendra Kumar Singh issued a circular to all departments enabling them to purchase land directly from farmers. Earlier, the power to purchase land from farmers lay only with the land reforms department. Moreover, governments would mostly opt for acquisitions for all projects.
“It has been observed that often important infrastructure projects like food godowns, roads, bridges, etc are not fully commissioned for want of small parcels of land. To ensure optimal utilisation of public funds and early implementation of such projects, direct land purchase from land owners may become necessary. The state government has considered the immediate need of land for such projects,” says the circular.
It adds, “Therefore, the governor is pleased to allow various departments to go in for direct purchase of land for public purpose.’’
However, the government has set some conditions. A department requiring land will have to take permission from the state government’s Standing Committee on industry, infrastructure and employment, headed by the CM and comprising other ministers, before going ahead with the purchase. Moreover, a 15-day notice will have to be run in local newspapers and public offices informing prospective sellers to send in their applications to the authorities.
The price of the land will be determined by taking into account the “assessed value of land”, that is, the value fixed by the local sub-registrar or the value agreed upon by the seller and the purchaser — whichever is higher.
The government will now set up purchase committees comprising land department officials and representatives of civic bodies.
“During the Left Front government, all land used to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act of 1884. The UPA government enacted a new law for acquisition, which required many formalities. The state government has not taken any steps to implement the new law. But there are hundreds of projects that require land, which are facing roadblocks. That’s why the government has issued the circular,”’ an official said.
However, another official questioned why a farmer would agree to sell the land at market value when acquisition would fetch more money.
Industrialists, meanwhile, welcomed the move. “These are back door reforms by various government as they do not want to confront the voters. It is a welcome move,” industrialist Ashok Aikat said.