Opposition parties in Assam have attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s move to allow conversion of land without clearances for the setting up industries in the state, the Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday. On June 29, the Assam Cabinet passed an ordinance that allowed micro, small, and medium enterprises to set up industries by merely submitting a self-declaration.

“In a historic and far-reaching decision to ease out the process of setting up industries in Assam, the state cabinet has approved an ordinance today,” Industry and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary tweeted on June 29. “Now, anyone will be able to set up industry in Assam just by submitting a self-declaration.”

The minister added that the industry will not require any permission, clearance or licence for three years from its inception, and land will be deemed converted for industrial purpose. “Such bold and advantageous change is expected to accelerate the industrialisation process in Assam,” he claimed.

But the Opposition lashed out at the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government. Debabrata Saikia, a Congress MLA and leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly, said the ordinance will seriously hurt the state’s farmers and its rural economy. He said that since not many Assamese have the financial means to procure land and set up industries, outsiders will reap the benefits of the ordinance.

Saikia reminded the government that during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in the state last December, it had promised to enact laws to protect the land rights of indigenous people, but the ordinance runs contrary to the promise. Saikia demanded that the ordinance be withdrawn immediately.

Former Union minister and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also criticised the ordinance, The Hindu reported. “This [ordinance] is disastrous with a capital D,” he claimed. Ramesh did not rule out the possibility that the state government would give away land in protected and restricted areas falling under the governance of tribal councils.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) described the ordinance as “anti-people” and “anti-farmer”. “It is an anti-people and anti-farmer policy besides inviting disaster for the biodiversity of the state,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Ishfaqur Rahman said. “These corporate-driven policies will undoubtedly pave the way for the loot and plunder of rich natural resources of the state by big capital and multinational companies.” Rahman alleged that the ordinance was in keeping with the Centre’s bid to dilute existing environmental regulations in the name of increasing the ease of doing business.