State govts can buy 30% land for SEZ developers
THE group of ministers (GoM) set up to frame a relief and rehabilitation (R&R) policy for those displaced by industrial projects, including special economic zones, on Thursday decided to give state governments the power to acquire 30% of the land required in case the developer has acquired the rest 70%. In the wake of violence and social unrest over land acquisition for SEZs, the government had decided to impose a total ban on official acquisition of land for such projects, ruling that all land would have to be bought by the developer. With most developers, backed by state governments, saying this would allow just a handful of people to block any project, it was proposed by the PMO that the policy could provide for the government acquiring up to 10% of the required land for maintaining contiguity and preventing a handful of malcontents from aborting vital projects. Now, the GoM has relaxed the ratio further to 30:70. “State governments can now acquire 30% of the land on behalf of the project developer if the company has already taken 70% of the land in possession,” commerce minister Kamal Nath told reporters after the meeting. Apart from SEZs, the decision is also applicable to all industrial projects. The GoM, headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, was constituted to frame an R&R policy for the benefit of the people displaced by land acquisition for SEZs and industrial projects. SEZ developers such as Reliance Industries and the Salim Group have been lobbying hard for relaxation of the rule. In May this year, the Centre had put a complete ban on states from acquiring land on behalf of private players. The decision came after protests by farmers and social activists in various parts of the country, including Nandigram and Singur in West Bengal as well as in Haryana and Maharashtra. The government has so far approved over 500 SEZs, including formal and in principle, but has been facing stiff opposition on the matter, particularly after violent protests at Nandigram in West Bengal and other places