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Govt looks to address land concerns

- Partha to answer questions of industrialists at closed-door session today

Will private investors get the government’s help in getting land for industry?

What is the status of the state’s land bank?

How can investors secure permission to get ceiling-surplus land from government companies?

Answers to some of these questions — relevant for industrialisation of Bengal — may emerge tomorrow from a meeting that the Mamata Banerjee government is scheduled to hold with industry representatives.

The chief minister will not be present at the meeting, but according to Writers’ sources, industries minister Partha Chatterjee has been given the responsibility to clear the air on land-related issues at the closed-door session.

“Industrialists have asked us several questions related to land and setting up of units. Instead of dealing separately with individual cases, we thought of briefing them together and having a detailed interactive session,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph.

Land has been the biggest hurdle investorshave faced in Bengal since the new government came to power. The government’s hands-off land policy and lack of clarity on holding land in excess of the ceiling have been cited as the major constraints for industry.

According to Chatterjee, the government is keen to give specific answers and that’s why he has asked all participants to directly send their queries to him so that he can go through them before the meeting.

“It will be like an extended version of the industry core committee meetings that we have been holding regularly. We will listen to industrialists and try to provide acceptable answers,” the minister said.

The Trinamul-led government had formed a core committee on industry with officials of all related departments and representatives of chambers of commerce.

Government sources said they had received at least 100 questions in the past two weeks and most of the queries revolved around how the government can extend help in freeing up land for industry.

The government has also received suggestions from representatives of the chambers of commerce. Some industrialists have suggested that the government raise the time limit of holding ceiling-surplus land from three to five years.

With Chatterjee promising to give specific replies, the industries department has forwarded the questions to the land and land reforms department for its inputs.

Chatterjee today held a two-hour meeting with officials of the land, environment, power and public works departments in his Writers’ chamber to prepare for the session. The sources said WBIDC managing director Nandini Chakraborty would make a presentation on recent land-related amendments, such as extending the ambit of section 14Y of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955.

The government has amended the act to expand the list of industries that can hold land above the ceiling of 24.2 acres. Commerce and industries department officials will try to clear the confusionsome quarters have.

“We will try to highlight that following the amendment, the administration can help investors get land through government companies that have been allowed to hold ceiling-surplus land that can be leased out based on government-approved project reports,” an official said.

The government is also expected to table two reports prepared by leading consultancy firms on the potential of industry in Bengal and efforts made to make land available to industry.

“The minister will try to convince investors to set up units in Burdwan, Birbhum, Bankura and West Midnapore, where the government has identified large tracts of land,” the official said, adding that Chatterjee would also highlight the availability of proper infrastructure.

Ashok Aikat, the chief of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, said: “The platform will give small investors an opportunity to get familiar with the changes and amendments the state government has introduced to facilitate industry.”