Govt's portal with data on land banks launched, but experts wary

Around 31 states/UTs have their existing land banks GIS-enabled of which 113,227 hectares is available for industrial use
The Union government’s land portal for attracting investors comes at a time when states have adopted land pooling, readjustment and myriad compensation models to acquire the increasingly scarce resource. The latest exercise by the Delhi government, which wants e-commerce, retailers and smaller manufacturing units to invest in the city, is one such example.

Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) would be in-charge of the exercise, but the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) that reports to the Union government had earlier launched a land pooling scheme that could not make much headway. While land experts said the DDA model was flawed, an official in Andhra Pradesh government said the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, (LARR) has made the acquisition of land both difficult and expensive.

Jignesh Mehta, faculty at the urban planning department of CEPT University, formerly the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, said, “In the areas, where there is no urban development demand, LARR is a desirable option for land owners as it requires two to three times the market rate compensation to be paid."

The Centre’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) portal has data of 3,275 industrial clusters covering 419,047 hectares. Around 31 states/UTs have their existing land banks GIS-enabled of which 113,227 hectares is available for industrial use.

The creation of a brand new city of Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh has been quoted as a successful model which is being followed for other cities in the state. “The model followed ensured that land pooling was done by giving 33 per cent of land back to the owners and cash compensation was paid in annual annuity. Other facilities like free education and medical treatment were also assured,” said a senior Andhra government official. The giving back of land and annuity ensured that the future generations of land owners were also taken care, he added. Amaravati, however, had its share of farmer protests and the World Bank withdrew support on several grounds.

According to senior officials, the existing industrial hubs of Bawana, Narela and Patparganj in Delhi are running out of space while most of the other 26 notified industrial areas such as Okhla, Wazirpur and Samaypur Badli do not have requisite level of open space, housing and sewage treatment that are mandated by DPIIT for creating industrial estates. The Delhi government is primarily betting on the 147-acre multi-level manufacturing hub at Rani Khera in Mundka, and the 77-acre knowledge based industrial park at Baprola. Plans for an integrated industrial township at Kanjhawala have been stalled.

While plans for all three were floated by the AAP government way back in 2013, land acquisition at Rani Khera was stuck over farmer protests at Baprola. "For the land that is yet to be acquired, we have worked out a compensation scheme for farmers at fixed market prices from 2019. It is fully in tune with the existing land acquisition laws of the Centre and ensures financial compensation for the head of the family," a senior Delhi industry department official said.

Land banks would also be used to address the historical challenge of shifting out industrial units currently operating out of Delhi’s cramped residential colonies. Environmental norms applicable to the NCR region do not allow certain industries like coal-based power generation to come up any more.  The city in the 1990s had to close down or shift them to outskirts under court orders.  

Delhi’s earlier development model depended on land acquisition. But now DDA has opened up the new zones under its master plan which follows land pooling scheme. "It requires land owners to come together and propose their own scheme, while DDA primarily plays a role of reviewer and approver. Whether this model of land pooling model will become successful for developing the new areas in a planned manner or not is still to be seen,” says Mehta.

According to the Delhi Master Plan 2021-Delhi’s rule book for land use, all polluting industries have to be shifted out of residential areas by the next year. A member of the state government's Industrial Land Management Advisory Committee said the last survey in 2018 had identified nearly 52,000 such businesses. The National Green Tribunal, however, ordered immediate closure of a sizable chunk of these firms, but the state industry department has managed to secure a deadline of April 2021. The challenge also comes from unplanned housing near industrial areas primarily catering to the migrant workers.

The Centre’s portal launched on Thursday shows large land parcels are available in Gujarat, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The Gujarat town planning model based on the British model for Bombay State has been used for setting up universities, hospitals and industrial zones. 

Though the new portal would have information regarding the land banks, rehabilitation and resettlement issues could always crop up because LARR is a right-based model unlike the Land Acquisition Act 1894 where landowners had no say. 

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