Calcutta, July 13: At least three large public-sector projects with a total investment of Rs 14,600 crore are stuck because the Mamata Banerjee government has not published the rules to free up land.
The projects are NTPC Ltd’s 1,600MW plant at Burdwan’s Katwa, Balmer Lawrie’s logistics hub at Dankuni in Hooghly, and Power Grid Corporation’s 765kV substation near Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri.
In April, the government passed the West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 2012, to allow industrial establishments to hold land above the ceiling of 24.8 acres as mentioned in the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955. The amendment also exempted more industries from the land-ceiling rule.
Three months on, nobody in the government — apparently oblivious to the delay’s impact on projects awaiting the “14Y clearance” for buying ceiling-excess land — has any clue about when the rules will be made public.
“Normally, the process should not take more than a month and a half. We don’t know why it is taking so long,” said a source, adding that the draft notification of rules that the government started working on earlier this month now lies with the judicial department for vetting.
Last month, commerce and industries minister Partha Chatterjee had narrated to industrialists what the government had done to facilitate new projects and highlighted the amendments to 14Y, promising “prompt” processing and sanction.
A senior official of a central PSU said prospective investors could get a clear picture of the amendment only after going through the rules.
NTPC, which has been trying since December 2010 to start work, has been waiting since February for the amendment to become operational so that its application to buy around 550 acres can be cleared.
The project, already two years behind schedule with a cost escalation from around Rs 9,000 crore to over Rs 10,000 crore, faces a hit of another Rs 100 crore from the land clearance delay.
Balmer Lawrie has proposed a Rs 80-crore multipurpose logistics hub on 58.5 acres it wants to buy directly in Dankuni. Although the ambit of the type of projects under 14Y has been widened, it still does not cover multipurpose logistics hubs.
“The Balmer Lawrie project is stuck for clearance because of the uncertainty over the definition of such a logistics hub. We’ll need a fresh proposal from them but we can’t even ask for one till the rules are finalised,” a government official said.
The Power Grid substation that will draw power from all the northeastern states and Bhutan for distribution in the eastern region is to be built for Rs 4,500 crore over 180 acres.