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House panel stalls land ceiling bill

Calcutta, July 16: The Assembly select committee looking into the land ceiling bill has failed to reach a consensus amid resistance from CPM allies and members of the Opposition, land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said today.

“The select committee has refused to clear the bill in three sittings. The House had asked it to place its report by the last day of the budget session, which ends on August 1. The term of the committee will expire after that. So, we won’t be able to pass the bill in this session,” added Mollah, also the chairman of the committee.

The bill proposed to amend Section 14(Y) of the land reforms act to add “industry, infrastructure and commerce” to the list of “mill, factory, workshop and tea gardens”, which are entitled to retain ceiling-surplus land.

The change was necessary in the wake of increasing demand for land for projects such as special economic zones and biotech parks and infrastructure development.

Mollah said the bill will “lapse” because of the lack of consensus in the committee.

But he could ask for an ex- tension of its term after con- sulting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPM state secretary Biman Bose. “I can submit my application for the extension of the committee’s term after talking to my leadership,” the minister said.

Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim said there was no hurdle to extending the term. “The question of the bill lapsing will arise only if the government doesn’t seek the extension and wants to introduce a new bill. There is no specific timeframe within which a bill should be passed,” Halim said.

Left Front sources said the CPM’s allies would not budge from their stand. “We feel this amendment would lead to corporate zamindari and reverse the achievements of land reforms,” RSP leader Amar Chowdhury said.

The CPM brass appeared to have developed cold feet towards the bill in the wake of the row over land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, but party insiders expressed concern about the signal the bill’s burial could send to investors.

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