Cabinet to evaluate outcome of meet

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his Cabinet colleagues can feel quite happy at successfully pulling off the “global connect” with the three-day Emerging Kerala meet in Kochi.

Post-event, the government’s major challenge is going to be land related.

The problem cropped even before the curtains went up threatening to take the sheen off the meticulously planned programme.

The United Democratic Front and the Chief Minister barely wriggled out of an unseemly situation by announcing a series of decisions, including amendments to the legislation permitting plantations to divert five per cent of their land for other purposes.

The event’s credibility was restored to some extent with the Cabinet decision to put a 10-acre cap on the diversion of plantation land and the Chief Minister’s statement that government land would not be sold.

The Cabinet also co-opted the suggestion of Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar for setting up an investment board to evaluate various project proposals.

Several projects were showcased at the meet but the underlying concern continued to be the availability and utilisation of land and the terms and conditions for leased lands given for industrial development.

Land tops the list among the incentives that the government can offer to investors. Most of the projects showcased at the meet, it is presumed, will come through the PPP route.

Land utilisation

Therefore, the government will have to come up with a valid scheme for land utilisation, with clarity in terms of lease period and rent if land is to be leased out.

For outright negotiated purchases, it will have to work out a convincing package for those who surrender land for industrial purposes.

Paddy and wetlands Act

The government has already made it clear that it proposed to implement the Kerala prevention of conversion of paddy and wetlands Act.

There are several experts who feel that there should be relaxation in the provisions of this Act.

G. Raj Mohan, former Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Latex, said the government should regularise land conversion in urban towns by levying a hefty one-time fee.

“There are large tracts of land in urban areas lying vacant and in which cultivation is not possible because of the march of urbanisation,” he pointed out.

The government will also have to think of reviewing the Land Reforms Act in order to facilitate large industrial investments, according to sources.

The Technopark and Kinfra models of land development for industrial purposes have also been successful, it is pointed out.

The next Cabinet on Wednesday will evaluate the Emerging Kerala outcome and come up with several schemes to push forward the investment proposals.

Institutional system

The Cabinet, the sources said, would also try to bring in an institutional mechanism to address issues that were likely to come up, including issues related to land.

  • Most of the projects will come via PPP route

  • Valid scheme for land utilisation needed