Transfer of all government land was banned in 2011, except in cases where land was to be transferred from one government department to another.
The government had asked the Department of Economic Affairs to prepare a comprehensive land transfer policy for government-owned land. In case any department had to implement a project, which required alienation of land either through lease, licence or rent, it had to seek specific Cabinet approval.
This was leading to long delays in awarding concessions for infrastructure projects, particularly public private partnership (PPP) projects. All PPP infrastructure projects — roads, railways, ports, civil aviation and metros — have some element of land alienation as they are often built on government land. The government continues to own the land which is leased or licenced out. Requiring Cabinet approval for each PPP project meant adding a few more months to complete the processes for securing the approval.
According to a government communique, with the relaxed norms, all cases of land transfer from Ministries to statutory authorities or PSUs will be allowed, subject to adherence of Government of India rules.
All cases of land transfer on lease or rent or licence to a concessionaire that have been appraised through the Public Private Partnership Approval Committee route and approved by the Finance Minister or ministers concerned or by the Cabinet, as the case may be, depending upon the value of the project, the communique said.
The relaxed norms also allow development and use of railway land and land owned by Rail Land Development Authority as per provisions of the Railways Amendment Act, 2005.
On this, Railway Minister Mukul Roy’s aide, who’s had a stint in the Ministry since Mamata Banerjee’s days, said: “The Railway Board will decide on a case-to-case basis. But, it is unlikely that the railways will hand over land for infrastructure projects (to others) for roads and highways, when our own demand is rising.”
However, the official added that there can be some ‘give-and-take’. “We’ve already asked for some land from the Port Authority of India for projects that will be beneficial for both. We can only take up proposals that have direct link to capacity-building for the Railways.’’
Projects worth over `20,000 crore in the infrastructure sector, including roads and airports, are stuck in different stages due to lack of clarity on land acquisition or land allocation.