Mamata quietly changes policy to aid industry

Allows state agencies to negotiate and directly buy land from farmers

Mamata quietly changes policy to aid industry

With the hope of industrial resurgence in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s government has been making silent policy changes.

Armed with pledges of around Rs 50,000 crore from various corporate majors, but with nothing to show on ground, the state government has decided to open up.

In a major shift from the earlier stand of not letting private investors purchase directly from farmers, Banerjee’s government approved a scheme that opens up the sector.

Earlier this month, in a rather silent move, the state government allowed some state agencies to negotiate with and directly buy land from farmers for industrial purposes.

While Banerjee has been vocal against both these policies, insiders inform that the state government would closely monitor the scene. “These are not to be taken as deviations but relaxations to make industrialists feel welcome. The chief minister wants to shed her anti-industry image,” said an official from the industry department.

The state Cabinet gave its approval to the Brihat Krishak Bazar Yojana, or the big farmers’ market scheme, on Monday — something former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of CPM had tried but failed, owing to stiff opposition from ally Forward Bloc.

The new scheme will “connect the local market to high-growth demand centres”, removing middleman from the food chain. While the government will set up these centres in every district, plans are on to invite corporates like Reliance Fresh and Adani Agri Fresh.

In another strategic shift, Banerjee allowed the West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIIDC) to buy land directly from farmers. While she had earlier stated that industrialists would have to arrange for land themselves, the new policy offers investors single-window access to land without going through the rigours of negotiating.

While the roadmap will be decided at the corporation’s board meeting in October, WBIIDC will scout for land and set up industrial parks spanning over 100-500 acres, where investors can set up facilities.

State Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee said, “Our leader has made it clear that we are opposed to forcible land acquisition. We are not acquiring land for industrial parks, like the Left Front government did in Singur. State agencies have been asked to buy land directly from farmers through negotiations.”

The decision also received a warm welcome from the Confederation of Indian Industry. Regional chairman Sudhir Deoras told reporters, “This will not only enable industries to have easier access to land, but also send a positive message to investors. The move will enhance ease of doing business in the state.”

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