A clutch of industrial projects in West Bengal are facing uncertain times as the state government’s land policy has left these stranded midway with a portion of their land acquired, or none at all.
The list of companies that are waiting for land includes a few big names such as Vedanta Group, Bhushan Steel, the country’s first airport-township at Andal (Burdwan) and public sector utility National Thermal Power Corporation.
"It is an uncertain situation. We cannot build projects in air. While the chief minister has gone on record saying the government would not allow any more acquisition for industrial projects, nothing has been notified so far. So we have to wait and watch," said a top executive of a steel company that is waiting for close to 3,000 acre of land in the state.
"No land would be acquired for industry projects," Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly said after taking oath on May 20. The draft land policy submitted to her by a two-membert committee also has recommended that investors should buy their own land.
Investors have maintained that it is impossible for them to buy land privately in West Bengal where land holding has become very fragmented following the land reform policy of the Left Front regime.
In fact, on June 16 the acquisition process of 590 acre for Bengal Shipyard, a shipbuilding project piloted by the Pauls of Kolkata-based Apeejay Group, lapsed. "I know the process has lapsed as the government did not proceed for two years after notifying section six of the Land Acquisition Act. But we are not sure at the moment how to move forward with the project," Saurav Das Patnaik, CEO of Bengal Shipyard told HT.
The authorities of the shipyard have to negotiate with about 3,000 landowners to buy 590 acres, which they admit is an impossibility.
However, the project facing a situation of so-near-yet-so-far is Bengal Aerotropolis, the company that is out to build the country’s first aerotropolis (airport-township) at Andal near Durgapur in Burdwan district.
About 1,900 acre out of the 2,100 acre required for the phase one of the project has been acquired. But the 200 left to acquire is a crucial patch that would provide connection with the NH2 running beside the project.
Worried investors have started enquiring with the industry department, but are not getting any definitive reply.
All these projects were initiated during the Left Front regime with the grand vision of huge investments, employments and downstream economic activity.
The land question is surely going to come up when Mamata Banerjee meets a group of investors on Saturday in her first meeting as the chief minister.
A section of the investors are hoping that the state government must be evolving some mechanism to help investors if they attempt to purchase land themselves.