The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pay-and-use whip in new landlock law

Time was when anyone entering Writers’ Buildings clad in business gear, armed with a feasibility report of a ’dream’ project and spouting the right ‘return-on-investment’ lines, would be given the red-carpet treatment and large tracts of land in and around Calcutta, at highly subsidised rates.

Now, the mandarins have finally woken up to the colossal land scam — of possession without performance — and decided to bolt the door and put in place a stringent policy for allotment, distribution and use of plots for industrial purposes.

“There are vacant plots all around, which were allotted to so-called entrepreneurs for their so-called projects. But there is nothing on the ground to show for all that… So, no more walking in and grabbing prime land at ridiculously low rates,” says state industries minister Nirupam Sen, one of the driving forces behind formulation of the new policy.

“In the changed scenario, an entrepreneur will have to pay the market price for the plots he requires for his project. That, too, after we have scanned his feasibility report and assessed his capabilities,” adds the industry minister.

According to officials, over 1,000 plots were allotted to various entrepreneurs in Salt Lake, on and off the E.M. Bypass, in Behala, Kalyani, Howrah and at different industrial growth centres in the districts. But nearly 20 per cent of the plots are lying vacant, while over 200 candidates queue up for land.

Under the new policy:

ÖThe plots lying unutilised for years will be taken over and passed on to others

ÖProject reports will be scrutinised for their viability; the financial and technical capability of entrepreneurs will also be assessed before land allotment

ÖEntrepreneurs will have to purchase land at market price

ÖNo change in types of unit will be allowed

ÖA declaration that the land will be utilised within six months is mandatory. If this is flouted, the land will be taken over

Four departments — urban development, cottage and small-scale industries, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and West Bengal Infrastructure Development Corporation — have so far been responsible for assessing projects and processing applications for industrial plots or sheds.

“An element of ad-hocism had crept into the system, in the absence of a proper policy. From now one, every application for land/sheds for either setting up a new project or expanding an existing one will be guided by the new policy,” clarifies Sen.

After a “positive change” in Bengal’s industrial scenario, several new entrepreneurs are said to be showing interest in setting up units here and seeking suitable spots.

“We shall definitely provide all assistance to them to get a suitable plot, but we want genuine groups and individuals to get the land, so that it is utilised properly,’’ says Sen.

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