Taking a clue from Central Asian country Uzbekistan, Gujarat government on Tuesday invited high net-worth individuals, institutions and corporate for horticulture farming on lease agreement on barren wasteland owned by the state government.
For the purpose, the state government has initially identified 50,000 acres of barren land in five districts including Surendranagar, Sabarkantha, Patan, Kutch and Banaskantha and allowed farming on lease contract under ‘Chief Minister Horticulture Development Mission’.
“During my visit to Uzbekistan, the government there offered barren land to Indian entrepreneurs on lease with a plethora of incentives. We are trying to replicate the same model in Gujarat to transform barren land in cultivable land,” said Chief Minister Vijay Rupani while announcing the mission. Accompanied by a high-level business delegation, Rupani had visited Uzbekistan to attend the Central Asian country’s first investment summit modelled on the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in October 2019.
Already the state government has put a list of land blocks for land allotment through I-Khetdut portal of the state agriculture department. Under the mission, an applicant, not necessarily a farmer, can apply for a piece of barren land ranging from minimum 50-hectare (125 acres) to maximum 1000-hectare (400 acres) land on 30 years lease.
According to Rupani, the Gujarat government would offer priority assistance to leaseholders of barren land for drip sprinkler fountains, electricity connection (agriculture) and even installation of solar power panels. For the first five years, the leaseholders will not have to pay any taxes or rent. From the sixth year onward, per acre Rs 100 to Rs 500 rent would be charged from them. As part of the security deposit, the leaseholders will have to pay Rs 2,500 per acre and it would be mandatory for them to develop the leased land within five years.
The leaseholders will have to grow only those crops identified by the state government as the intention of the mission is to increase agriculture exports through value addition, he said adding, “We are anticipating massive employment opportunity through lease farming on government wasteland.”
In case a leaseholder wants to return land ahead of the lease period, no compensation would be given. Land allotment process would be monitored by a high-powered committee headed by the Chief Minister himself.
Manish Bhardwaj, Secretary Agriculture and Cooperation said that of the state’s total 196 lakh hectare land 50% (around 98 lakh hectare) is being used for agriculture purpose, 20.60 lakh hectare is barren and nearly 14 lakh hectares is government wasteland. According to Bhardwaj, there are ample opportunities for individuals, corporate and institutions having adequate financial resources to convert these barren lands into cultivable land and earn money out of it.