Calcutta, Jan. 9: A day after the CPM leadership announced at a public rally that the industrialisation drive would be its major plank for the Assembly elections, the government began an exercise to simplify the existing rules for acquisition of farmland for industry.
'We have simplified the rules for the acquisition of agriculture land for industrial purposes,' land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla said at Writers' Buildings this afternoon.
'In the changed set-up, we will be able to acquire farmland within six months instead of 23.'
Last February, the government had constituted a committee to examine the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 to see if it required modifications.
The minister today said: 'We have done away with the earlier cumbrous system by modifying portions of the acquisition act.'
The number of steps involved in the acquisition of farmland has been cut down by half from a dozen.
He earlier held a four-hour meeting with commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen and the district magistrates of the two 24-Parganas, Burdwan, Howrah and East Midnapore. Their agenda: land acquisition.
Molla said the demand of land for industries is maximum in the five districts.
The government, he added, will now allow a farmer to assess the price of the plot that is being taken away for industrialisation.
Instead of the land acquisition department, which often takes away land from farmers on lease without giving them the market price, government agencies such as the CMDA, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and the Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority will buy the land giving them their due, the minister said. 'This will help the land loser get the maximum benefit. Those interested in setting up industries will have to take the land from the development agencies.'
He also said that if a land loser does not agree to the valuation determined by the development agencies, he can ask for 10 per cent extra. 'We call it an agreed award. If even this price is unacceptable, the farmer has every right to move court.'
Observers said the move will help the CPM silence Opposition leaders, particularly Mamata Banerjee, who has been raising the emotive issue in her bid to make a dent in the CPM's rural vote bank.
The development agencies will not speed up the land handover to entrepreneurs until they get their detailed project report. 'We want to know the exact requirement of land so that they do not get more than what they need. The agencies will clear the file within a fortnight if the report comes in a proper way,' Molla said.
His department will assign officials to ensure the completion of land acquisition within six months.
The minister said: 'We will have to complete the process within a time-frame so that those interested in taking them are not harassed.'