Using Agricultural Land for Non-Agricultural Purposes

Tamilnadu Government Publishes Rules for Using Agricultural Land for Non-Agricultural Purposes 

The background

During the course of the hearing on the PIL filed by Advocate-Activist Elephant Rajendran seeking Ban on Registration of Unapproved Layouts and Plots, it came to the light of the Court that there were no ‘Provisions of Acts/Rules/Regulations at present prescribing any wetland lying fallow for more than three years to be converted into residential or other use applied for.’

Hitherto, the practice was to allow the Agricultural land to lie fallow for a few years, and based on the Report/NOC from the Revenue Officials, that no cultivation has been done for more than 3 years and the land is not fit to continue agricultural activities, the permission for Using it for non-agricultural purposes will be obtained.

Already an amendment to Section 47A of the Tamilnadu Town and Country Act, in 2011, enjoined on the Collector to personally visit the Site and satisfy himself that the place is not suitable for Agricultural activities anymore. However, in practice this has become almost routine. Earlier, land owners seeking conversion of wet lands for non-agricultural purposes were expected only to give certificates from Tahsildars stating that the plot was not being used for agriculture for several years.

Added to this is the practice of giving ‘Layout Approvals’ by Panchayats. This was going on in blatant violations of the provisions of the Town and Country Act

The New Rules

The Present Rules Notified by the Tamilnadu Government namely, Tamil Nadu Change of Land Use (From Agriculture to Non-agriculture Purposes in Non-planning Areas) Rules, 2017, has done two things:

1)Made the procedure more details and difficult and

2) fixed the charges for these Land Use Conversion Charges at the rate of 3% of the market value.

Land owners seeking conversion of wet lands ((cultivable agricultural land with irrigation sources)) for non-agricultural purposes have to get permission through District Collector, where District Collectors will have to personally visit the spot and verify that the land for which conversion is sought is no longer suitable for agriculture and collectors were permitted to clear such conversion when water availability for irrigation had dried up in the area owing to infrastructure growth in catchment areas of water tanks and lakes.
 
The Rules have made the provisions a bit stringent for regulatory agencies like the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and the Directorate of Town and Country Planning and their subordinate bodies. They would then take a decision to reclassify the land based on the Collector’s report. This holds good even for major industrial projects. 

The Rules are applicable for Non-Plan areas. Non-Plan areas are those areas where no Master Plan have been Drawn up. In Tamilnadu, most of the Land Area are not covered under any Plan Authority.

We  have to wait and see, how this new Rules serve the purpose of curbing indiscriminate conversion of Agricultural Land for non-Agricultural Purpose

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