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IT land-relax plan

Calcutta, Dec. 1: The IT department has requested the land and land reforms department to keep information and communication technology projects outside land ceiling rules.

IT department officials said the move was aimed at ensuring that the ceiling rules did not come in the way of IT projects. Section 14Y of the Land and Land Reforms Act, 1955, states that no business establishment, except for tea gardens, mills, factories or workshops, livestock breeding farms, poultry farms and dairies, can hold land in excess of 25 acres.

Earlier this month, the IT department had written to four departments commerce and industries, urban development, micro and small enterprises and food processing seeking their suggestions on amending the 14Y clause. The act, which came into effect in 1955, does not have any mention of new-age industries like IT.

“We want to ensure that IT companies do not face any problems or delay in setting up hubs outside townships, where the ceiling rule does not apply,” an IT department official said. “The state government has allotted 50 acres each to IT majors Infosys and Wipro in Rajarhat but they won’t come under the purview of the act as they are in a township,” he added.

Kalyan Kar, the vice-president of the Sector V Industries Forum, an umbrella organisation of companies that looks into problems such as water shortage and poor connectivity, said: “This is great news for Bengal and will be of tremendous interest to the IT industry.”

But sources in the sector said IT companies usually did not require land in excess of the ceiling, except for large firms. “Land is scarce in Bengal. The IT sector is not land-intensive but people-intensive. IT companies can expand vertically (add floors to existing structures),” said Kiran Karnik, a former president of Nasscom.

Suparno Moitra, the eastern region head of Nasscom, said: “If the IT industry is exempt from the land ceiling rules, it will help companies where floor-area ratio is a problem and rules don’t allow vertical expansion.”

After coming to power, the Mamata Banerjee government had stated it wanted to make Bengal a top investment destination in IT. The Trinamul government is, however, against any government role in land acquisition for private industry.