Land Ordinance: Government's Claims of Stalled Projects Exaggerated?

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Land Ordinance: Government's Claims of Stalled Projects Exaggerated?

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The Narendra Modi government claims it will unblock a backlog of infrastructure projects worth crores stalled by the UPA government's Land Act.

New Delhi:  In defense of its land acquisition ordinance, which it is now trying to pass as a Bill, the Narendra Modi government has claimed it will unblock a backlog of infrastructure projects worth crores stalled by the Congress-led UPA government's Land Act.

But repeated attempts by NDTV to get a list of the stalled projects from the government yielded no results.

The only list NDTV could access was shared by a top industry body of stalled infrastructure projects worth above Rs 1,000 crores. It reveals that of 67 such projects, only seven - or 10 per cent - are currently stalled or surrendered solely because of land acquisition problems. These projects are together worth Rs 53,677 crore , or 13 percent of the total stalled investment.

In fact, in September 2013, there were 12 such projects stalled because of land issues. Four of these - two road and two power projects - have seen some movement in the past year, which again questions the assertion that land acquisition came to a halt in the past year.

"I am not aware of any such list," BJP Spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.

While the government has never given an estimate of stalled investments, the list revealed that delays in clearances by various government departments were more to blame than issues in land procurement.

"If you want empirical evidence, we can let the 2013 bill run for another 10 or 100 years," Mr Rao said, adding, "For any new project even to be mooted, where is the land available?"

"If the law is implemented, let us have some data to prove that the changes are needed," NCP's Supriya Sule, reacting to the NDTV report.

Congress leader and spokesperson Salman Soz said the government didn't consult anyone before making changes to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.

"BJP talks about one consultative meeting. A small meeting with a few ministers cannot decide on the future of such a bill," Mr Soz said, adding, "The 2013 land bill was a result of many meetings."

Of the list of seven stalled projects, six are road projects. Two proposed highways in Maharashtra by construction major Larsen and Toubro (L&T) - worth Rs 4,506 crores - were foreclosed earlier this year. The company's other road projects in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are pending (one of them since 2011) because of land acquisition issues.

Also on that list is a project by Ashoka Buildcon in West Bengal. The company sold its stake in the project in Odisha.

Among the four projects that saw some movement last year are L&T's road project in Tamil Nadu and a second Ashoka Buildcon project in Odisha. There has also been some progress in land acquisition for a power plant by Tata in Jharkhand, and another by Lanco in Chhattisgarh.

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