In a bid to impede the privatisation of Central public sector undertakings (CPSUs), including HLL Lifecare Limited and Hindustan Newsprint Limited, the State government would invoke the clause against diverting and alienating the land it had transferred to the Union government at nominal rates for setting up industrial units.
Industries Department sources told that the State government had transferred vast tracts of land to the Centre for a nominal price for industrial promotion and employment generation over the years. Much of the land that had been transferred is remaining idle and now the NITI Aayog has decided to divest its stakes in a number of units, including HLL Lifecare and HNL, without even eliciting the opinion of the State. On evincing interest to take over and retain such units in the public sector, the Centre has asked the State to pay the current fair price as compensation.
The State government had already issued an order for taking over Instrumentation Limited at Kanjikode in Palakkad. But the Centre has demanded to pay the price for the 123.12 acres of land currently being held by the company. The State had provided 374 acres of land in Palakkad for Bharat Earth Movers Limited, 700 acres for HNL and 11.44 acres of prime land at Peroorkada in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city alone for HLL Lifecare.
The State government’s plan to set up a petrochemical plant on the 481 acres of land given for FACT at Ambalamugal in Kochi is hanging fire since the Union Cabinet has not taken a decision on returning the land to the State. Once the State government presses its claim to take over and run the units, the Centre may apply the same rule in the case of the land being currently owned by all these units. This would be unaffordable for a government reeling under acute resource crunch and it would be eventually forced to shelve its plans, sources said.
Since land is a State subject, the only option left is to invoke the clause against diversion of the land given for a specific purpose and also the move to alienate it on other grounds. The government would explore that option and seriously attempt to thwart the move to part with its prime land resources to private entrepreneurs for measly prices, sources said.