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Industry drive caught in land logjam

The district administrations’ dilly-dallying attitude over landowners’ offer of plots for industries has slammed brakes on any scope of resolution of land scarcity problem in the state.

The industries department’s Aao Bihar initiative, which literally bounced back from the dead in 2013, has seen 17 people approaching the department wishing to sell off their land to interested industrialists or entrepreneurs. The department, in turn, contacted the respective district administrations, directing the commissioner’s office to check the land documents and complete verification formalities.

However, the verification of none of the plots has been done so far. The department sent reminders. Sources said the verification directives were sent almost a year back but no action was taken.

Industrialists called it unfortunate.

“Such attitude shows that the state government is not serious towards this sector. They just talk about trying hard but the groundwork is little or none. In a land-starved state, such issues should be dealt with immediate effect. But people wishing to give land are waiting for a simple verification for years,” said Satyajeet Kumar Singh, the chairman of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Multiple attempts to contact industries department principal secretary Naveen Verma proved futile.

“The Aao Bihar scheme was launched in 2010, asking landowners to offer plots to industrialists directly. The department was clear that it wouldn’t interfere between the two parties but would list the prospective sellers and upload their names and plot details on its website for potential investors. However, it decided to verify the plots to ensure they were free from any kind of conflict. Though the website lists were compiled, verification is pending in all cases,” said a department official.

Take for example the case of East Champaran resident Rajendra Prasad Gupta. He said: “I sent an application to the industries department in 2011, offering 50 acres for industry at a certain rate. Three years have elapsed but no one from the department or the local administration contacted me for land verification. Recently, I heard that the state government wants to acquire land for construction of an Indian Oil Corporation depot. But things are just on paper.”

In another case, Tanveer Ashraf of Siwan said: “In 2012, I came to know about the scheme. I went to many of my farmer friends and convinced them to offer the department 100 acres in Gopalganj. Thereafter, I submitted all relevant papers with the authorities but we got no reply. There are farmers whom I owe money. I am stuck because of this scheme and feel cheated,” said Tanveer.

The Aao Bihar scheme evoked interest from farmers willing to sell off more than 500 acres to industrialists.

“What can we do? We have reminded the local administration several times but to no avail. It is very frustrating. The matter would be put forward to the industries minister shortly,” said another department official.

On October 30, 2013, Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority stopped allocating plots to fresh investors, citing paucity of land and suspension on fresh acquisitions. The order still stands and Biada managing director Deepak Kumar Singh, who got transferred on Friday, had told The Telegraph that they would start giving little land they had to pending applicants after next week. Moreover, the department’s private industrial area policy is yet to click among investors in absence of proper advertisement.