In a bid to cut through red tape, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday relaxed the ban on transfer of government land for infrastructure projects. He had approved the ban last year to prevent the possibility of irregularities in public-private partnership (PPP) projects.
“The Prime Minister approved relaxation in the land transfer policy for government-owned lands, so infrastructure projects are not held up due to procedural delays,” the PMO said in a statement. It said the measure, which does away with the need to approach the Cabinet for exceptions in each case, would significantly “speed up” awarding PPP projects from this month.
It would apply to transfer of land to public sector bodies, and transfer of land on lease, rent or licence to a concessionaire appraised through the designated committee and approved by the finance minister. Also, it would cover the use of railway land by the Rail Land Development Authority.
The relaxation would not apply to sale of land.
Singh, incidentally, had approved the blanket ban on transfer of government land in March 2011, after the cabinet secretariat noticed instances of agencies selling, leasing and licensing land for use by companies for projects. The ban - which required the cabinet to approve each case of land transfer — was an interim measure, meant to give the department of economic affairs time to formulate a comprehensive land transfer policy.
The restriction was reviewed after feedback revealed that the restriction, introduced to ensure there were no irregularities, ended up stalling projects. "This was leading to long delays in awarding concessions for infrastructure projects, particularly PPP projects,” the statement from the PMO acknowledged.
Projects in the road and railway sector are often carried out on government land. "Requring Cabinet approval for each PPP project meant adding a few months to complete the processes for securing cabinet approval," the statement added.