The Mamata Banerjee government has expedited the process of monetising land parcels owned by various departments and parastatals (government-owned firms and bodies) by issuing a standard operating procedure (SoP) in an apparent bid to generate more revenue for development work ahead of panchayat and Lok Sabha polls.
The SoP issued by the finance department clearly states that the departments and parastatals will identify land parcels that can be monetised and send the list of plots to the committee of secretaries.
The committee of secretaries, comprising secretaries of various departments, will examine the proposal and forward the proposal to the cabinet for final approval.
“The initiative clearly suggests that the government wants the departments and the parastatals to initiate the process of selling off the land parcels in their possession at the earliest,” said a senior bureaucrat.
Earlier, the state government allowed the departments and the parastatals to sell off the land parcels they possessed to generate more revenue. Now, the SoP makes it clear that the government wants the departments and the parastatals to go ahead with the policy in a proper and time-bound manner.
According to sources, the state government will try to monetise the land parcels ideal for commercial activities. Departments like urban development and municipal affairs, agriculture marketing, transport, PWD, PHE and parastatals such as the CMDA and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation have commercial land parcels in their possession.
“If these plots can be monetised in the first phase, which can be completed within three to four months, the state can generate a sum of Rs 500 crore to Rs 600 crore. The state is trying to mop up the funds at the earliest,” said a source.
According to sources in the administration, the state government is trying to generate money to be used for development projects.
The flow of funds to development projects from Delhi to Bengal has almost dried up over the past one year or so since the Centre stopped the release of funds under rural development schemes like the 100 days' job scheme, rural housing and rural roads schemes.
In such a situation, the state government wants to spend whatever funds it can come up with to take up development projects, particularly in rural areas.
“If funds are allotted for development projects, it will generate job opportunities as well as improve infrastructure like rural roads. This is important for Trinamul ahead of rural polls and 2024 Lok Sabha polls,” said a senior official.
Sources said departments and parastatals are likely to start sending lists of land parcels that could be monetised by another week or so. Proposals can be placed before the cabinet by June after being vetted by the committee of secretaries.
Some officials, however, warned against excess.
“As the state government has a policy against forceful land acquisition, all development projects come up on government plots. If all plots are sold out, where will future projects come up? Hence, departments should envision a plan for the next 10 to 15 years and preserve plots that can be useful for future projects,” said a senior bureaucrat.