Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Just 8.2% projects stalled due to land acquisition, 4.2% for environmental reasons: Union finance ministry

By Our Representative
A Union finance ministry reply to a right to information (RTI) plea has revealed that, as of February 2015, as many as  804 projects were stalled due to variety of reasons, but just about eight per cent of the projects (66) were stalled because of land acquisition problems. Based on the reply, Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative says, this suggests, "the argument that the slowdown in the economy is due to land acquisition projects is a myth."
The data, from 25 states and two union territories, suggest that Maharashtra tops the list with 125 stalled projects, followed by Gujarat (63 projects), West Bengal (55 projects), Karnataka (52 projects) and Telangana (52). The private sector projects account for 78 per cent of projects, outnumbering the public sector projects planned by the Central or state governments, or public sector enterprises or local municipal boards and autonomous authorities.
"Of the 66 projects stalled due to land acquisition issues, only 11 (1.36 per cent of 804 projects) directly relate to the well being of the disadvantaged or less affluent segments of society such as slum rehabilitation projects or construction of budget housing projects or a bus stand (which few affluent people use)", Nayak says in his analysis. forwarded to Counterview.
He comments, "So the proposal to amend the Land Acquisition Act to waive the requirement for taking consent of the village assembly in the areas where land is to be acquired for providing affordable housing for the poor will affect a minuscule number of projects." Therefore, he adds, the justification tom-tommed for the amendment becomes "untenable."
On the other hand, 145 of the stalled projects (18 per cent) are for the "affluent and the rich as they are projects involving the construction of shopping malls or elite hotels and resorts (4 and 5 star), multiplexes, elite residences and villas, golf courses and a racing track", says Nayak, adding, "Another 25 stalled projects are about setting up townships", yet "nothing in the list provided by Finance Ministry indicates which segment of society they are intended to benefit."
Further, Nayak says, "Lack of environmental clearances account for a mere 4.2 per cent of the stalled projects, whereas lack of clearance from the state governments amount to 11.8 per cent of the total." He comments, "It looks like the regulatory regimes have contributed to only 16 per cent of the stalled projects. So the license inspector raj also does not appear to be a major contributor to the stalling of the 804 projects, if the latest data are accurate."
"The largest proportion of projects that have stalled (38.8 per cent) are due to unfavourable market conditions or lack of funds or promoter interest or raw material or fuel supply problems", Nayak says, adding, "Several of these projects are owned or promoted by some of the biggest industrial houses in India and a handful of foreign ownership."
Then there are projects listed as "Others" as the reason for the stalling of 19 per cent of the projects (153). "Reasons for stalling are simply not available for 15 per cent of the projects (121). Taken together the projects for which reasons for stalling are either unspecified or simply not available amount to more than a third of the total number of projects (34 per cent).
While projects like those related with power generation, airport construction or expansion, road and railway expansion, pharmaceutical, textile, software and SEZ projects, mining projects for coal and uranium, are part of the stalled projects list, there is no answer to "What is the total value of all 804 projects?" In fact, the RTI reply refuses to divulge the detail despite the fact that a recent Finance Department meet revealed that 300 projects valuing Rs 18.13 lakh crore had remained stalled.

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