New land bill may hold up infrastructure projects in North India (Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, etc.)

One of the key provisions of the land bill – banning acquisition of irrigated land – could create infrastructure bottlenecks in states with well developed agriculture such as Punjab, Harayana and Uttar Pradesh.

The draft bill notes that the government does not envisage acquiring any multi-crop irrigated land for public purpose. It says, "No irrigated multicrop land will be proposed for acquisition under any circumstances."

While the government has argued that the move could push development into areas that are far from urban centres and already developed, officials pointed out that it could also lead to freeze of infrastructure development in large parts of the states where agriculture is well developed.

Sources said some district collectors consulted in the build-up to the draft law had already put forth their reservations about the blanket ban. Nearly 80% of the agriculture land in Punjab is irrigated and Haryana comes a close second on this count. Large tracts of UP too are well covered by canals or groundwater extraction, leaving the parched portions of Bundelkhand and some tribal belts. In fact, in terms of percentage of total land available across the country, UP has the largest gross irrigated area — 21.6%. It is followed by Punjab with 11% and Andhra Pradesh with 10.95%. For many districts in these states, the clause could cause difficulty in even promoting infrastructure development like highways and roads.

Sources in the rural development ministry said while the provision had been put in the land bill as of now, it would certainly be open to review if a substantial number of representations were received on the issue.(TNN)

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