MAHARASHTRA has relaxed norms for purchase or diversion of farmland for non-agricultural use in cities.
The BJP government in the state has abolished the need for obtaining a specific permission, better known as Non-Agriculture permission or NA, from the revenue department officials such conversion of farmland.
The state’s revenue department issued the ordinance notifying this relaxation on January 5. Maharashtra is the third BJP-ruled state after Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to adopt the measure.
The government has justified the move saying this will improve the Ease of Doing Business index of Maharashtra. “NA certificate was found to be a cause for delay for change of use of agricultural lands in urban areas,” said a senior official.
About the objective and reason for the ordinance, the state government stated, “Once a development plan (for a city) is notified by the government, it becomes permissible for land holders in such areas to use the land as per provisions of this plan and the corresponding development control regulations. It is felt that there is no need to separately examine and decide whether or not to grant permission for conversion of use of such lands. It is proposed that where such development plan is published, the land shall be deemed to have been converted for the use as admissible under the plan.”
Under the revised norms, land holders won’t be required to approach the local collectorate for NA permission. The collectorate will simply collect the applicable conversion tax, non-agriculture assessment fees, or the nazarana, and it would be deemed to have converted for non-agricultural use.
The Devendra Fadnavis government has also extended the revised norms for cities where the draft development plan or the draft regional plan had been published. A top official confirmed that this basically means that the new norms will be applicable for almost all the urban belts in the state.
Ironically, the revised norms will also have retrospective effect allowing those who had earlier diverted farm land illegally to regularise their purchase.
“Several industries and builders have already purchased such land without the requisite permission. This would also legalise such transactions,” confirmed a senior official.
A bureaucrat who did not wish to be named said that revision of norms was necessary since the government had also received complaints that industrialists found it difficult to change the use of a land for setting up industrial units in some places. There were also complaints of “persistent harassment” from local revenue department officials.
The ordinance, signed by Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao, reads, “As both the house of the state legislature are not in session and the Governor of Maharashtra is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, this ordinance is promulgated.”