The Assam government on Friday said the ordinance to facilitate setting up of MSME units will not only be a “huge game-changer” by aiding the ease of doing business but will also not pose a threat to the land rights of the indigenous communities.
Industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary on Friday released the salient features of the Assam Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Facilitation of Establishment and Operation) Ordinance to allay the apprehensions of a section of the people on the apparently blanket permission for converting any plot of land to set up industries.
“This ordinance will not affect the land rights of indigenous people of Assam which is protected by the Assam Agricultural Land (Regulation of Reclassifications and Transfer for Non-Agricultural Purpose) Act, 2015. This ordinance does not affect the restrictions on sale or transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose as protected under the aforesaid act,” he said.
“This ordinance does not allow any person to buy or sell any agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose. The bar of agricultural land used or transferred for non-agricultural purpose as provided under the aforesaid act shall remain as it is and this ordinance will not affect it at all. In other words, agricultural land will remain with the agriculturalists only. This government is committed to the protection of jati (community), mati (land) and bheti (home) of the indigenous people. There will be no compromise on this front,” he added.
The elaborate clarification has a lot to do with the critics, including the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), wanting clarity about the land-use policy, fearing that a blanket nod would lead to the indigenous people losing their land and, consequently, their identity in the long run.
The critics believe the ordinance will make the indigenous communities vulnerable to market forces and outsiders with big pockets and maybe forced to sell their land to them.
The state government also said an aspiring entrepreneur will not get an acknowledgement for his self-declaration if the land falls under the restricted categories such as public grazing reserve, village grazing reserve, wetlands, eco-sensitive zones, heritage, historical, archaeological sites and land settled, allotted or reserved for religious institutions like xatras, naamghars, temples and wakfs, and land under tribal belts and blocks, among others.
The state government hopes the ordinance will help tide over the depressing business environment triggered by the coronavirus-induced lockdown by creating a conducive environment, driving domestic growth, attracting investment and accelerating overall industrial development, Patowary said.
Around 24 lakh unemployed people, including the returnees from other states, could directly or indirectly benefit from the move, he said.