Brakes on bill

By Maureen Nandini Mitra
Published: Thursday 31 July 2008

with early Lok Sabha polls seeming inevitable, West Bengal's Left Front government is playing safe by holding off on a controversial bill that would have relaxed land ceiling laws and facilitated setting up of 12 special economic zones (sezs) in the state.

The West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2006, seeks, among other things, to change land ceiling laws that don't allow a person to hold more than 5 hectares (ha) of irrigated and 7 ha of non-irrigated land. Opposed by the Trinamul Congress and the Left Front's constituents, the bill has been stuck in the assembly's all-party select committee for two years. The house panel is yet to submit its report on the proposed amendments. If the committee does not seek another extension soon, the bill's life will end. Since the committee members "couldn't resolve their differences", the bill would have to be put on hold, state land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who is also the select committee chairperson, said.

It seems the cpi-m, shaken by reverses suffered in the May panchayat polls, does not want to push through a measure that is unpopular with the rural electorate. Nor does the party want another confrontation with partners Forward Bloc, cpi and rsp, who are against sezs. Mollah said the bill had to be analyzed among the allies to get "a political clearance" within the alliance. However, most Front partners say they will continue to oppose the bill.

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