The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ceiling bill survives panel term

Calcutta, July 24: The CPM may have put the land ceiling bill on the backburner under pressure from Left Front partners, but the party has ensured its survival.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah today confirmed that he would request the Assembly to ext- end the term of the select committee, which was looking into the bill, in the next few days.

The bill to relax the rural land ceiling for industry, commerce and infrastructure projects would lapse if the government does not seek the extension by August 1.

A lack of consensus in the all-party panel had prevented the government from pushing the bill through. But the panel today gave the nod to the min-ister’s proposal to seek an ex- tension of its term.

Mollah, also the chairman of the committee, will now seek Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim’s clearance before asking for the extension in the Assembly.

Front sources said the CPM did not want to go ahead with the bill before next year’s rural polls. The allies had opposed the bill saying it will undo the good done by the front’s land reforms over 30 years.

A CPM ally said the partners did not oppose the extension proposal because it would “effectively dump the bill in cold storage, at least till the panchayat polls”.

The House had asked the committee to place its report by the last day of the budget session — August 1. “It could not clear the bill even after three sittings,” Mollah said.

The objective of the bill was 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 were entitled to hold ceiling-surplus land.

Although the bill does not mention special economic zones (SEZs), the minister said the amendments were considered necessary because of the increasing demand for land for SEZs, biotech parks and infrastructure development.

“Earlier, the government took the initiative to set up industry. The scenario has changed. Land is scarce and we have to depend on private partners now. So, the amendment was necessary,” Mollah said.

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