Millennium Post

State fails to utilise large plots because of erstwhile Left govt's 'faulty' procedure

Kolkata: The Bengal government has failed to utilise huge chunks of land across the state for setting up industries due to technical problems as most of the plots were acquired by erstwhile Left Front government "illegally", not properly following the West Bengal Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act and Rules 1976.
As the land vesting process was not properly followed during the acquisition, many of the land owners, especially those having huge pieces of land were found to have moved court challenging the acquisition procedure. In most of the cases they have won the cases. The Mamata Banerjee government has been on the receiving end due to faulty vesting procedures carried out by the Left Front government. Other states that had adopted a similar type of land ceiling act in their respective states for vesting land finally repealed the Act but in case of Bengal, the previous government never felt the need to repeal the West Bengal Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act and Rules 1976 as it had allegedly become "ineffective".
The Urban Land Ceiling Act (ULCRA) was introduced by the Centre in 1976 to prevent hoarding excessive land. The Act prescribed the ceiling limit on vacant land in urban area at 7.5 cottah. The Centre decided to repeal the Act with the passing of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Repeal Act, 1999 as it failed to bring about required results. Various states subsequently repealed the Act with Bengal being an exception.
The implementation of the ULCRA was quite dismal due to various reasons including absence of clarity and too much discretionary powers given to the state governments for granting exemptions, compensation provided for the acquired land was very little, which often led to lengthy litigation disputes. The maximum compensation was Rs 10 per sq. meter and the total compensation could not exceed Rs 2 lakh per owner. This made landowners reluctant to declare their vacant lands as surplus. It has been learnt that for the past 10 years, the state Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Department failed to vest a single piece of land. It has also become evident as no such record has appeared on the number 1 Khatiyan which shows record of lands that have been vested by the department. The state government has to bear the huge cost of money for running the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Department that has failed to vest a single piece of land in the past one decade, sources said.
For eg, the state Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Department had vested a piece of land falling at Mouza Rajapur, JL No 23, Dag No. 1026 under Survey Park police station in South 24 Parganas in 1991 as per the state Act vide case no 1848/76. But this plot was not shown in the number 1 Khatiyan proving that the land was not vested. But those who bought the land were told that their plots had been acquired.
A senior official of the state Land and Land Reforms department, on condition of anonymity, said the vesting process was illegal as the land was bill in nature and not in Vaastu condition. Proper proceedings were not followed. The land was sold to different people later and mutations were done. The official also added in most of these cases it has been found that those having small plots measuring around 1, 2 or 3 cottah are facing the heat as the previous government showed them as vested land despite tax being collected from the land owners. If these disputed lands could be used for setting up industries, the state government would have been hugely benefitted.
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