DIPP Looks at Transferring Salt Pan Lands to States, PSUS
PREPARING CABINET NOTE THAT WILL END GOVT’S ROLE IN LEASING OUT SALT PANS TO PRIVATE COMPANIES
Munshi Premchand's “Namakkadaroga” was a scathing attack on British curbs on salt business, one that inspired the famous Dandi March. Seventy years after independence the NDA government has finally decided to dispose more than 61,000 acres of salt pan land it owns in various parts of the country .
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion ( DIPP) is preparing a cabinet note which will effectively end its role in leasing out the salt pans to private companies. DIPP is proposing transferring the land to other departments such as ports, renewable energy or sell it to central public sector units at market rate. It would also consider transferring this land to state governments.
“Salt production is no more a challenge and does not require government intervention. The salt cess has also been abolished... However we are saddled with the land and the staff managing it. A comprehensive proposal is being drafted to deal with this issue for the cabinet to consider,“a senior government official told.
India is the third largest producer of salt in the world after China and USA with an average annual production of about 240 lakh ton. It is the second largest producer of iodised salt after China, with average annual production of 60 lakh ton. All aspects of salt industry including manufacture, supply and distribution are controlled by the central government. Headed by the Salt Commissioner's office headquartered in Jaipur, the Salt organisation among various functions also manages departmental lands spread across nine states including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
“The salt land around coastal areas has appreciated a lot in value and could be a good source of revenue if the government wants to monetise it. But reclaiming this land inundated with salt for lucrative activity will be a challenge,“said DK Srivastava, chief policy advisor, EY.
There is a total of 6 lakh acres of salt pan land in the country, half of which is salt producing. Much of this is with the state government which leases it for manufacturing activity.
Centre and state governments of Maharashtra have been in a long drawn tussle over the ownership of 3,000 acre of salt pan land in Mumbai. Maharashtra has not been able to access land for construction of affordable houses and other amenities since it has been leased by the Centre for salt production.
In 2012, DIPP had formulated internal guidelines for transfer of salt pan land through the office of the Salt Commissioner at places other than Mumbai after it received several requests from various ministries and state and central PSUS. The guidelines stated that “Land used for salt production and related activities, as a rule, shall not be transferred to any agency.”