Tamil Nadu sets an example

The West Bengal government would do well to learn how to acquire land from the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation, union IT and communications minister A Raja and Perambalur collector Anil Meshram. Setting a record of sorts, they have helped the Hyderabad-based GVK group, promoters of the 3,000-acre Perambalur Special Economic Zone, acquire 2,800 acres of land from the villagers concerned without a single case of litigation. The government, as per the rules, can acquire up to 30 % land for an SEZ; in Perambalur government agencies are acquiring hardly 7 % of the total land requirement from villagers. The rest has come through voluntary sale.The registration of land that started on November 2 last year is nearing completion, said sources in the TIDCO and the district administration. The district administration has initiated proceedings to acquire another 208 acres — whose owners are not known or couldn’t be traced — under the Industrial Purpose Act.Their price would be deposited with the court. A proposal has been sent to the government to hand over another 236 acres of poromboke land to the GVK Group.The firm has pumped in Rs 100 crore for the purchase of land and is expected to invest another Rs 800 crore for providing basic infrastructure.“Land acquisition was a tedious process involving close to 2,000 owners but we succeeded because we took the owners along with us. The single largest owner held only 22 acres and there were close to 350 small players with just 1,200 sq ft each in their names. After several rounds of negotiations involving the minister, land owners, GVK representatives, collector and TIDCO general manager B Elangovan, a consensus on a uniform price of Rs 3 lakh per acre was reached. It was nearly six times the then market price. Also, the company promised the land owners preference during recruitment and free fully-developed residential sites in a 100-acre layout, carved out and kept outside the SEZ,” said a TIDCO official. A team of 60 TIDCO officials headed by a special DRO spent about six months preparing a database of the land owners and 14 lawyers representing the GVK Group scrutinized every land document. The site, covering five revenue villages, has about 2.5 km frontage on the NH 45. The project had got in-principle clearance last year and is expected to be formally approved by the SEZ board in a month, said senior-level TIDCO sources.GVK Technical and Consultancy Services director P Srinivasulu Reddy, who represented the company in the land deal, said, “We have registered 1,259 documents so far. There were days when we registered 70 documents and I put thumb impressions on 630 sheets of documents. Several companies have shown interest in setting up units in our SEZ. But we will start marketing the product only after fully developing it. We are also in talks with the Puducherry government to set up a dedicated power plant for the SEZ in Karaikal. It will have a 350 MW capacity.

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