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Reality pricks hope balloon
Poor land policy plagues industry

Industrial growth in the state has been slow and unsteady.

The government has been making tall claims about improving the industrial scenario but their sparse achievements have failed to satisfy industrialists and experts.

“The government needs to address land and power problems first,” said an industrialist, requesting anonymity.

He added: “Land acquisition for industries is a major problem. But the government is not dealing with it because it fears the ire of the people. The government does not want to create a Singur-like situation in Bihar.”

Tata Motors was supposed to set up a car manufacturing plant at Singur village in Bengal. But protests by landowners and subsequent crackdown by the then Left Front government led to widespread resentment and the ousting of the communist government from power after a 34-year-rule. He also said: “If private investors are not assured that they would be provided land by the government or helped to acquire land, they would not like to come to the state.”

Jeffrey Witsoe, a US citizen and an anthropologist, who has written a book on the caste politics in the state, is of the same opinion. “I have travelled through many districts of Bihar and lived in villages. People in the state don’t sell their land. For them, land is izzat (honour). Those who sell land face the contempt of their friends and neighbours.”

In March last year, the government launched an ambitious project — Come to Bihar — to address the land problem. Its aim was to create a land databank. Landowners willing to sell off their property would register themselves with the government and industrialists would be able to access this data.

But till now, only two people — one from East Champaran and the other from Purnea — have registered themselves. Officials accepted that the scheme has been a flop. But they are also planning to find an alternative.

Industrialists, however, claim that there has been hardly any development. Satyajeet Kumar, vice-president, Confederation of Indian Industry, eastern region, said: “Land is a major issue. It is even bigger than the power scarcity problem.”

He also said: “There are several reasons for it. The Biada has not been able to give physical possession of land to investors. After acquiring land, the government does not give it to the industrialist. As no proper land records are kept, the government is unable to prove that the land was acquired. Investors have been asked to find their own land. But such an attitude is anathema to industrialists.”