Facing protests over an ordinance to facilitate MSME units, the Assam government on Thursday said that it will modify the rules and no exemption would be given for setting up industries on agricultural land. Addressing a press conference here, Assam Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal held a special meeting on the backdrop of protests against the ordinance and decided to modify it.
"Earlier, there was a provision (in the ordinance) that after getting the Acknowledgement Certificate, agricultural land would be deemed converted for non- agriculture purposes to set up an industry. But now it is proposed that so far as land is concerned, no such exemption will be given," Patowary said.
The business enterprises will have to take all the permissions, clearances and approvals related to land before starting any unit, he said. Opposition parties had demonstrated against the MSME ordinance, claiming that it would alienate indigenous people from their agricultural land.
"After detailed discussion, it was unanimously decided that stringent measures and provisions should be made so that the right of the indigenous people over their land is protected and kept unaffected. "Accordingly, a provision has been proposed to be made in the draft MSME Ordinance that all the provisions of the Assam Agricultural Land (Regulation of Reclassification and Transfer for Non-Agricultural Purpose) Act, 2015 and other land laws will have to be followed and adhered to for setting up of any enterprise," he added.
No exemption will be given under the Act or any land related law for any business initiative or business enterprise, Patowary added. On June 29, the state government approved the 'Assam Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Facilitation of Establishment and Operation) Ordinance, 2020', putting an end to the process of taking multiple permissions for MSMEs for three years.
Any person, who intends to start an enterprise, may furnish a self declaration with an undertaking to follow all Acts and rules, according to a provision of the ordinance. This led to widespread protests by the opposition Congress, All Assam Students' Union (AASU), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and general public also accusing the government of allowing rampant industrialisation compromising the environment.
Patowary said land falling in restricted categories like public grazing reserve, village grazing reserve, wetlands, eco-sensitive zones, heritage, historical, archaeological sites; religious institutions and tribal belts and blocks will not come under this ordinance, Patowary said.
The minister informed the media that over 3.50 lakh people have returned to Assam in the COVID-19 time and if they desire to establish MSMEs, they may require their own land for the purpose. "Keeping in mind the apprehensions of the people, the government has decided to make more stringent arrangements so that there should not be any ambiguity and there should be complete clarity that the rights of the local people are protected," he added.