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

Resource Digest - - CONTENT -

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.”

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