Shimla: Having tied itself in knots over tight land laws, the government’s move to relax some of its provisions for attracting investments and industry into the state has opposition BJP repay with ‘Himachal on Sale’ slogan; something the congress had deftly used to win the 2012 state assembly elections.
Land having become the biggest obstacle for attracting fresh investments into the hill state, the government on 1st July issued a draft notification that has sought to make changes in the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Rules (1975).
Where objections from the public have been sought, the proposed new law wants to make it biding upon director industries to issue essentiality certificate once State Level Single Window Clearance and Monitoring Authority, headed by the chief minister, has approved the land intended to be acquired for setting up a new industry.
Last week (July 18) Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh let the Industries Association of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh (BBN) know that the government was “relaxing the norms of Section 118 to set up industries.”
Land reform rules (Section 118) laid out in 1975 debar non-agriculturalist, whether a resident or not a state resident, from buying any agriculture land. The rules also do not allow any changes to be made land usage patterns.
“The government was committed to simplify the procedure for Section 118 clearances for purchase of land to set up industries in the state,” the chief minister told the industrialists. Notification for reduction for change of land use charges had also been issued, he said.
To attract fresh investments, the government has also offered to make a policy by relaxing norms for allowing old industries or land to be sold so that another unit could come up. “We will see that the process of transfer/sale from one company to another is not hampered,” the chief minister announced.
Having borne the brunt of an aggressive election campaign where it was labelled with having put ‘Himachal on Sale’ in the run up to the December 2012 assembly elections that BJP lost, the opposition has been quick to hit back by saying that to benefit industrialists and other non-Himachali’s the Virbhadra government was intent upon amending Section 118 for the 7th time.
Asking the government to declare the names of the industrialist who had never set up any industry in Himachal Pradesh but were owners of large estates, party spokesman Ganesh Dutt said, “silence of revenue minister Kaul Singh is intriguing at a time when rules were being bent to put Himachal on Sale.”
While the political parties spar about changing of goal posts when in power, the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act (1972) enacting for protecting farm lands and binding a resident population to its land holdings, with passage of time has become the biggest hurdle attracting investments as all purchase and sale of land by a non-Himachali needs a cabinet nod before the revenue transaction can be done.