Mere Occupation

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The draft industrial policy being submitted to cabinet for approval later this month may link allotments in the shrunken industrial estates to the actual implementation of the project, reports R S Gull

JK-Industrial-estate-kashmirWith doors literally closed on the new jobs that the state government, the employer of last resorts, has ceased to create, entrepreneurship is the new buzz word. Capital and human resources apart, land is emerging as the new scare requirement. As investments in the new industrial estates have slowed down for some time, authorities have woken up to the existing mess in the operational estates.

“We have just concluded a census of the estates which we operate across the state,” a top executive in the state run Industrial Developmental Corporation (SIDCO) said. “We were shocked that 698 units are holding nearly 2500 kanals of land.”

In Kashmir, SIDCO is operating five large and medium industrial estates in which 420 units are operating with an annual turnover of Rs 2756 crore and an employee base of 3988 people. In Jammu, it operates four estates with 838 units having 17529 employees and a turnover of Rs 7074 crore.

Within days after the census revelations, notices were issued to all the persons holding land and doing nothing. The ministry was suggested that allotments should be immediately cancelled so that scores of new entrepreneurs keen to invest and work get the land, they are impatiently waiting for. After lot of deliberations, the Industries Ministry has indicated it will give the lease holders a last chance that must end well before 2015.

Efforts are afoot that the new industrial policy should make it unambiguous that the people getting land allotted must implement the project within a stipulated time frame so that land is adequately used. “It has evolved into a sort of a racket that influential people get land allotted in their names and then sell to the people at much higher costs,” a senior officer said. “We have suggested that in case of transfer of land, commercial rate should be implemented.”

Interesting aspect of the industrial land holding is that there are vast swathes of land in utter disuse since 1983. “Some of this land is located in Jammu’s Bari Brahamna where people are desperate to get one kanal,” the officer said. Most of the available land was consumed by major industrial groups of country which cumulatively invested more than Rs 4000 crore. The investment was attracted primarily by the central government package that NDA government announced in 2002.

In Kashmir, land is almost impossible to get in Rangreth, Bagh-e-Ali Mardan, Zainakote estates. But there are patches in occupation of people for a long time. Even in estates like Khanmoh and Lassipora (Pulwama) which have still some vacant spots, some people have kept vast patches occupied already.

“We had a major problem with SAIL that took a lot of land, paid for it and did not do anything but finally they have conveyed us that they would not require this land,” one officer in the ministry said. “But there are various plots in Khanmoh which are either misused or not used at all. On one plot, somebody has even constructed a house.”

But insiders in the industries ministry said the crisis of holding land is nothing specific to SIDCO as other industrial promotional agencies in the state like DIC, and SICOP are also facing the same issue. J&K has 20 industrial estates across the state of which SIDCO has developed 10464 kanals, SICOP 3649 kanals and DIC slightly more than 961 kanals.

Sources pointed out that in Sopore estate, which for most of the last 20 years was under the occupation of the security forces, the eviction immediately triggered a mess.

“As the land was allotted to people there were complaints and forcing us to send a team only to find that one plot was actually allotted to a 60 year old wife of a former GM and another to wife of a clerk in the same office,” the officer said. “We cancelled both allotments.”

“We are facing tremendous constraints due to limited availability of land,” one senior officer said. “Right now, we are in the process of adding 10 more estates in Jammu but the limitation of resources is an issue.” Authorities intended to create another major estate in Ompora, Budgam. As basic investment was made, the IAF occupied part of it and after negotiations started, the IAF suggested created a barrier that plays with the viability of the estate. It is most likely to be abandoned now.

In Jammu alone, we have identified locations to develop 9220 kanals of land at Samba, Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Billawar, Udhampur, Kathua, Kishtwar, Sunaderbani and Ghatti but the investment costs in developing these estates would be Rs 210 crore. “Once these estates come up, situation will be eased,” the officer said.

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