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CAG raps Odisha govt for ‘undue favour’ to industries in land acquisition

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Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, June 23:

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has rapped the Odisha government for showing undue favour to private companies in land acquisition by violating several clauses of the Land Acquisition Act.

In its performance report on ‘Acquisition and allotment of land for industrial purposes by IDCO for the period of 2001-12’ released here today, the Central audit agency said the violations include incorrect application of the ‘public purpose’ clause, emergency provision and assessment of compensation.Odisha CAG report

It also noted that land was acquired on the location identified by the promoters of industries without considering its impact on agriculture, irrigation and environment.

“Audit noticed that in 190 Land Acquisition (LA) (MoU based industries) cases test checked,  Revenue and Disaster Management Department approved acquisition of 14296.56 acre private land for 33 industries (non-Government Companies) at Rs 912.45 crore during 2002-12 under ‘public purpose’ clause, even though the circumstances did not permit the land to be acquired under public purpose,” said the CAG in its performance report.

The CAG also rejected the contention of RDM department, which stated (April 2013) that IDCO was acquiring private land for industrial purpose, which is very much a public purpose under section 31(1) of OIIDC Act 1980.

“The reply is not acceptable since IDCO was acquiring land for private promoters and the entire cost of acquisition was borne by the promoter concerned. Thus, land for these industries should have been acquired under Part VII of LA Act but was acquired under ‘public purpose’ to by-pass the legal provisions and procedures prescribed under part VII of LA Act and LA (Companies) Rule, 1963,” said the report.

During 2002-12, the Odisha government acquired 29769.482 acre private land and provided it to 52 MoU based industries (20795.814 acre) and 54 non-MoU industries (8973.668 acre).

It also said that provisions of the LA Act were violated resulting in bypassing the safeguards available in the LA Act, 1894 and LA (Companies) Rule, 1963 to protect the interests of land owners.

Audit noticed that in respect of 92 out of 225 test checked LA cases (190 for MoU and 35 for non-MoU) relating to 20 companies, 7025.535 acre private land was acquired at Rs 205.65 crore during 1995-2008 by invoking emergency provision though none of the above grounds was fulfilled.

Further examination of these LA cases by Audit revealed that in all 92 cases, IDCO recommended application of emergency provisions by citing a generic reason that the projects would be executed on priority basis.

Surprisingly, in 36 LA cases involving acquisition of 2845.38 acre land for 10 projects, emergency provision was approved by the Under Secretary even though such power was only vested with officers of Deputy Secretary and above rank.

“Thus, emergency provision was arbitrarily applied, contrary to the provisions of LA Act and the land owners were deprived of the rights to contest the land acquisition and protect their property due to inappropriate application of emergency provision,” read the report.

Audit also noticed that IPICOL did not make a comprehensive assessment of the land required for different components of each industry such as main plant, railway line, approach road, water pipeline, township etc and instead assessed the land requirement for each component in a piecemeal manner, as and when applied by the industry concerned.

As a result, in case of five industries, though the land for main plant had been handed over, the process for land acquisition/ alienation for the other components was not initiated/ initiated with inordinate delay, resulting in over all delay in setting up of industry.