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Cabinet nod must before govt land is sold or leased

It would also affect government ministries such as railways and defence that have large amounts of lands lying with them.

Written by Surabhi | New Delhi |
April 2, 2011 1:13:22 am

Concerned over a series of irregularities in sale of land in recent months,the government has asked all nodal ministries and departments to seek clearance from not only the finance ministry but also the Union Cabinet for selling off or leasing out any land belonging to the government or statutory organisations.

“Specific approval of the Cabinet should be sought in each case of sale or long term lease of land belonging to the government or government controlled statutory authorities,” the expenditure department in the finance ministry has said in a recent missive.

“…express approval of finance ministry is essential for sale/grant/allocation/ disposal of government assets/ resources created from government funds by autonomous bodies,” it further directed.

While the expenditure department had sent out a similar circular last year as well,the recent directive came on the behest of the Cabinet Secretariat that has found a number of instances where government land was ‘alienated through means such as sale,lease and/or license,’ after which its value shot up significantly in a decade or so.

In the meantime,the Cabinet Secretariat has also set up a committee to work on a new policy for transfer and sale of government land that will supersede all other guidelines on the subject.

Though the government’s financial rules have clearly said that administrative ministries and departments and public sector autonomous bodies are merely custodians of government’s assets and resources,and not its owners; there have been many irregularities in deals involving government land like the Adarsh housing scam where land has been given out without mandatory approvals.

The move would impact a large number of projects that are being implemented on the public private partnership route,especially those on the build own operate transfer mode (BOOT) such as road and airport projects.

It would also affect government ministries such as railways and defence that have large amounts of lands lying with them. The Indian Railways,which is the country’s second largest land owner after defence,owns 4.32 lakh hectare of land and is looking at various options to commercially exploit 44,894 hectare of vacant land.

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