NEW DELHI: Much is being said about the new land acquisition law and the amendments proposed by the NDA government to make it easier for industry and public-private partnership projects. However, a study carried out by Comptroller and Auditor General last year on land acquired by the Centre between 2006 and 2013 – the period during which UPA was in power — reveals that a land mass as big as thrice the size of Noida was acquired under the Special Economic Zone policy but more than half of it had not been put to use.
The CAG study, part of its performance audit report tabled in Parliament last year, said ever since the notification of the SEZ Act, land covering 60,375 hectares or roughly 600 sq km has been acquired, out of which only 28,488 hectares became operational till last year.
The study finds that 31,886 hectares allotted to SEZs had not been put to use, which constituted 53% of total land acquired by the government though the approvals and notifications that date back to 2006.
West Bengal and Odisha did not use at least 96% of the land acquired for this purpose. Maharashtra had idle SEZ land of up to 70% of what was acquired, and best performers Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh had the figures at 48%.
Besides, the federal auditor found that land parcels acquired at discounted rates, much below the market value, were also diverted to private builders in urban areas for commercial exploitation.
“Land acquired for public purposes were subsequently diverted (up to 100% in some cases) after denotification,” the report said. Seventeen states were not on board in implementing the SEZ Act with matching state-level legislations. Developers and unit holders were almost left unmonitored, the study found.
It said in six states 3,540 ha (14%) of land was denotified and diverted for commercial purposes. Many tracts of such land were acquired invoking the ‘public purpose’ clause, the report said.