The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Farm-land curb

Calcutta, March 29: The Left Front government has decided to penalise agricultural land owners who use their land for any other purpose without permission.

Agriculture minister Ka- mal Guha, who discussed the state’s new agriculture policy with finance minister Asim Dasgupta, said he has received several suggestions from the fisheries, land reforms and agriculture departments on checking conversion of agricultural land and ensuring their optimum utilisation.

“There have been suggestions on preventing filling up of ponds and on land-use patterns. Some specific suggestions have also come for effective production of cash crops,” he said.

Guha said nobody has so far bothered to prevent conversion of agricultural land though there is a specific law.

“As a result, several acres of agricultural land have been converted into fisheries, brick-fields and concrete structures. But now we have decided to step up vigilance against the erring landowners who will be penalised,” he said.

The agriculture minister made it clear that agricultural land cannot be used for any other purpose unless it helps implement public projects such as schools and hospitals, in specified areas.

Expressing concern over indiscriminate land conversion, especially in semi-urban areas, Guha said agriculture production would suffer a setback if the current trend continues.

“We have made it mandatory for the land owners to take clearance from the administration for utilisation of agricultural land for any other purpose,” he said.

The agriculture minister said the government would encourage the farmers to grow more jute as it is a major cash crop in the state. “The agriculture department, in association with the agricultural marketing, cottage and small-scale and commerce and industries departments, will make every effort to create an internal market for the jute-based products and explore their export potential. The farmers need not go for distress sale if we can ensure a market for jute-based and other diversified products,” he asserted.

Guha said the government would start purchasing potatoes from the farmers in Bankura and Hooghly from the next week at the rate of Rs 2 per kg. He said the potatoes would be kept in the cold storage and sold during the off-season. The minister said a few more cold storage would be constructed to prevent recurring distress sale of potatoes by farmers and promised all necessary help to the private parties who would come forward to build cold storage.

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