Odisha mulls direct land-buy model to cut acquisition time, boost industry

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With land procurement the key bottleneck to establishing industrial projects, mainly the big ticket ones, the Odisha government is thinking of developing a new model for land purchase. Under this model, both the investors and the state-owned land acquisition agency, the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco), can go for direct buying of land from the owners without invoking Land Acquisition Rules.

"The days of arbitrary and forced land acquisition are gone. The mechanism that we are now exploring is the direct purchase of land as opposed to acquiring it under Land Acquisition Rules. This involves talking to people and offering them an upfront amount so that the potential land losers do not have to wait for one or two years to get compensation," said Sanjeev Chopra, principal secretary with the Odisha industries department.

Chopra said that while both Idco and investors can do this, the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act would apply even to direct land buying. Idco is already conducting direct land purchase in some districts. "You cannot offer them (land losers) below what is prescribed in the R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) policy. Technically, there would be no land losers though there is some ambiguity in it. If Idco acquires land for an industrial area, there would be no provision for employment until some industrial project comes up," Chopra added.

Lack of adequate patches of land and hurdles in the acquisition of private land has slowed the pace of industrialisation in Odisha. Big ticket projects like Posco and ArcelorMittal failed to take off in the state primarily due to land acquisition woes. Between them, the two mega steel corporates promised a whopping investment of over Rs 1 lakh crore. Investors and land losers have been at loggerheads with each other resulting in protracted face-offs in acquiring lands.

The state government is encountering the same land procurement hurdle even for planned manufacturing zones like Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ) proposed on the Dhamra-Paradip cluster and the National Investment Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) at Kalinganagar.

"For CEZ, the central government is looking for 50 sq km of contiguous land. We have offered to provide land in patches around Dhamra and Paradip ports. But, much of the land that we have identified is private land and it is going to be difficult. Even for NIMZ, we don't have adequate land," Chopra said.

To overcome the hassles of land acquisition, Idco has identified 100,000 acres under the Land Bank scheme. Of this, 12,000-13,000 acres of land are under the state government's possession. Around 4,000 acres have been identified as Category-A land, which can be readily handed over to the industries. Then, there is Category-B land, which is reserved for industries and can be alloted if required.