"I started the process around November 2019. It’s been more than 9 months and I am still at least 4 months away from getting the permission that allows me to construct anything on my agricultural land," says Rohan Shah, a finance student, who wishes to start a manufacturing unit in India.
Well, India had jumped 14 places to take the 63rd position on the World Bank's ease of doing business ranking in 2019. "India made it easier to do business in four areas measured by Doing Business. Authorities in Mumbai and New Delhi made it easier to obtain construction permits by allowing the submission of labor inspector commencement and completion notifications through a single-window clearance system. Starting a business is less costly thanks to abolished filing fees for the SPICe company incorporation form, electronic memorandum of association and articles of association. Since 2003/04, India has implemented 48 reforms captured by Doing Business. The most improved business regulatory areas have been starting a business, dealing with construction permits and resolving insolvency," stated World Bank's Doing Business report.
Now as we talk about improved standards of ease of doing business, Rohan's experience says otherwise. Rohan wishes to start a manufacturing unit on a land spread across 3 acres or 1,20,000 sq.ft. in Maharashtra's Sangli district.
Rohan says, " You need to obtain “permission” before you build any manufacturing structure on your own land with your own money. This permission is called the NA or Non-Agricultural Certificate. After asking around a bit, I was told that I could get the NA permission from the “Revenue Department” office. And so I went there. There I was told to get a list of documents."
He went to the Sangli District Administration Office. He was told that he'd require several documents including 7/12, 8A, Affidavit (Self), Application Form (Self), All Land Records Since 1950 (Tahsildar Office), Official Plot Map (Gat Nakasha), 9/3 – 9/4 (Document showing ownership of land and other details as on 1950).
He said that the first four documents were easy to get. But the last three documents were not easy to get. "It took me more than 3 months and Rs 2000 in legal fees and more than 20 visits to different offices more than 10 kms apart."
After visiting the office multiple times, Rohan said that he finally got them. He thought this was it and he was now going to get the prestigious NA certificate. But little did he know that doing business isn't so easy.
With all these documents, he went to the Revenue Department Office.
"I submitted the file. And was told that the application will be reviewed, discussed in a meeting and then if the application is approved, the procedure for NA-ing the land could be started."
A month later, he got a call from the Revenue Department asking to visit them for further procedure.
"There I was handed a letter, addressing 11 different departments and asking those departments to give me a NOC (No Objection Certificate). I was told to get all the 11 NOC’s by showing this letter to each department and any other additional documents they might ask."
He said that after applying to each of these places, they give their own list of documents that require one or two more NOC’s each.
"After 4 months, all I had to do was to take this letter to each of these offices (after finding their address, located somewhere in the district) and then get their letter. Easy peasy, I thought."
"But no! Once I reached the first “PWD” office, they gave me a list of documents required by them to grant me NOC. And so did MahaVitaran. And Mahatransco. And the Irrigation Department…!"
Rohan again had to walk in to several offices to get his work done.
"And the PWD NOC was easy to get. It took more than 4 months but no one asked for any bribe nor did anyone ask for any extravagant documents or signatures."
Again, Mahavitaran is the Maharashtra state owned company. It owns the low-tension electricity transmission lines which provides electricity to houses, commercial spaces and farms. (Not industries).
Now comes the Mahavitaran NOC. The requirement for the Mahavitaran NOC is that “if” there are any lines going through the farm land, then the land owner must get them removed.
"Even though removing these lines cost a lot, it is an important step for safety. So again, not a problem."
If there are no high-tension lines, as is the case in our land, a self-declaration by the farm owner that there is no Mahatransco line should be sufficient, Rohan explained in his blog.
"I applied for NOC. They came and checked. Their person signed and wrote that there is no Mahatransco line. And then they gave me that paper and asked me to get signatures from two village authorities. The Talathi and The Circle Officer. And both of them denied it. And that’s it.Mahatransco would not accept it without the signatures. And these two people would not sign it at any cost. What should a mere mortal with no government or political connections do about this?!"
Ease of doing business includes the cost effective aspect. But that was not the case for Rohan. "Not only do they need 11 documents, each of which requires almost a month to obtain, they also want us to pay RS 2,89,000 “because” our land falls within the area served by a canal from the Irrigation Department."
He was even asked to get a permission from the health department. "Why do you need the health department’s “permission” to start a manufacturing unit on your land?"
They even gave him a list of documents to upload on a website but the website is not operating at the moment."And hence the work is stuck."
He was also required to apply for an NOC at the Tahsildar Office in Miraj but he received no response. "It’s been more than 4 months. Just total silence."
"Obviously, they are playing “hard to get” to get me to pay some bribe and initiate the process. But after going through all this, I am not going to pay any bribe to anyone."
At Gram Panchayat office, Rohan says, "they openly demanded bribes after waiting for four months."
"So the Gram Panchayat NOC is stuck because of non-payment of bribe.
And many other NOC’s depend on the Gram Panchayat NOC, so they are stuck too."
Expressing his ordeal, Rohan, says "It’s been more than 9 months, I went from one office to another. From one Taluka to another, most of the time to find out that the concerned person has decided to stay at home that day."
Now, Rohan has found out that the law governing these rules is based in the “Maharastra State Land Revenue Code”. "I will try to challenge this process in the court as well as protest for change so any one could start or construct anything of their choice on their land without much delay."
Rohan's blog went viral and several came out in support. Netizens even called for better reforms. A Twitter user said, "This post narrates the pain involved in setting up a small manufacturing unit in rural Maharashtra. It is a sobering read. We urgently need reforms to enable small scale manufacturing units in rural areas."
Here's how Twitter reacted;