Land Acquisition Bill: A Reality Soon?

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Land aquisition Bill Land Acquisition Bill: A Reality Soon?

Rajya Sabha clears Land Acquisition Bill

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 (LARR) is not far from becoming a reality now with the Rajya Sabha clearing it. The bill gives fair compensation and housing facilities to those whose land is acquired. But the bill is not restricted to land owners only; it also gives protection to those landless workers whose livelihood was dependent on their land.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that the law is open to suggestions and could also be amended after three-four years if the next government in power wants to.

Why the bill came up?

We often say that we want to be successful in what we do, don’t we? We can say so about that our nation as well, right?

The present government, or the ones in the past and future, all aim to bring about the development of our nation. It wants to see that every person is economically and socially secure.

As we know that India is an agrarian economy. Therefore, in an effort of exploring more avenues, industrialisation started with the advent of globalization. It just didn’t want to restrict itself to agriculture, and therefore, spread its wings towards industrialisation for growth.

But everything comes with a cost, and so was the case here.

Setting up of industries and business brought in huge investments for the country but that wouldn’t have been possible without the land that was required to set up their infrastructure for offices. Infrastructure is a necessity for development.

But land was only made available to them at the cost of many lives.

It harmed a lot of people and deprived them off their rights. The people affected were farmers, adivasis (tribals), dalits (members of the lower caste), scheduled casts and scheduled tribes, and other tribal people. They were forcefully evicted from their own lands sans appropriate compensation and household facilities. This led to people holding protests against the government because they were getting deprived of their livelihood, their communities, homes and no security for future which their livelihood would provide.

We have witnessed many of such protests like the ones against Tata in Singur, and Nandigram in  West Bengal, the Yamuna Express Highway, South Korea’s Posco steel mill in Odisha,  Arcellor Mittal’s project in Jharkhand etc.

The list is endless it seems. It forces you to question whether this could ever be development. From here, it looks to me like a complete violation of human rights.

Social scientist Michael M Cernea said, “Expropriation of land, removes the main foundation upon which people’s productive systems, commercial activities and livelihood are constructed. This is the principal form of decapitalisation and pauperization for most rural and many urban displacements, who lose this way both natural and manmade capital.”

What’s worse to know is that states have become so greedy that one ends up questioning their very intention behind their notion of development. Companies offer such lucrative deals that the state accepts without taking the whole picture into account. But like I said earlier, everything comes with a cost.

To acquire such deals, the government gives them incentives in the form of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). SEZs are certain geographical areas which the government allots to companies, and concessions are given to these companies to help them in carrying their business forward.

The companies couldn’t ask for more.

While so-called development was underway on one side, people were suffering on the other. The government may claim that their actions are in tandem with the interest of the people, but what kind of interest is this that is achieved at the cost of someone else’s interest.

Till now, land was being acquired under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which allowed acquisition of land for public purpose in exchange for monetary compensation. But neither did it provide any rehabilitation facilities for the displaced people, nor was the compensation provided enough.

But LARR 2011 addresses this issue very well.

The government has itself said that land acquisition and rehabilitation are two sides of the same coin. It has ensured appropriate compensation, housing, employment and transportation for the people displaced. It has given due importance to both rural and urban areas. Land will be returned to the land owner if the project is not implemented within five years. Land will be only be acquired after the consent of the people, and multi-crop agricultural land will not be sacrificed.

Loopholes in the bill

No body or nothing is perfect, so is the case here. After doing a little research I found that these are the issues with the LARR 2011, that need to be addressed.

1. The first issue is that when farmers are rehabilitated, they will, in a way, become skill-less. Since the transaction would probably be in cash, the lack of knowledge on part of the farmers may cause them to make bad investment choices. Not to mention that the government will provide employment to one member of the family, but what if the whole family is of farmers (both men and women of the household)? This will deprive others of their skills. Maybe the compensation should be in the form of land for land, and the provided land should be fertile enough to carry out farming even though at a small scale.

2. The second issue is regarding the value of land. According to the bill, the government will provide four times the market value of the land as compensation in rural areas, while it will be twice the amount in urban areas. The reality is that market value keeps fluctuating and therefore, chances are that there will be a fluctuation in the compensation amount. For example, there are two identical pieces of land, A and B, adjacent to each other in a rural area and the government decides to buy one of them, land A. Now let us assume that the market value is high during a particular period in time, therefore, the owner of land A will get a good compensation for his land that is bought at that time. But another situation may be that market value drops suddenly after that period and the government decides to buy the other piece, land B as well. Unfortunately, the second land owner will end up getting less in compensation. See, two identical pieces of land get different amounts of compensation. Therefore, the land owners should be allowed to value their respective land more than the market value because then a reasonable negotiation could take place and both parties will be able to make profits.

3. The third issue is regarding employment. The bill ensures that there will be employment for those whose livelihood depend on the land acquired. But what about those who transfer the produce from the farm to the market. I know they are the middlemen who have been denounced many times. But there may be honest middlemen as well who will end up suffering.

4. The fourth issue is the government’s perception of “public purpose”. The bill states that land acquired will be in the interest of the masses, which could help them. The government can also acquire land on the behalf of private companies only if they serve public purpose. But there is a flaw regarding the acquisition of land by private companies for public purpose. Just look at past examples like the one in Singur; they completely contradict this purpose. Even dams that were built in the past by acquiring land have not really helped people.

5. Also, the bill doesn’t allow multi- crop agricultural land to be acquired (five percent of it is allowed) keeping food security in mind. But what about farmers who are willing to sell their agricultural land or those who don’t want to pursue farming any more. This provision prevents them from pursuing other career options in the future.

6. And last but not the least, the corruption that exists among bureaucrats and politicians who are always on their toes to grab the land as soon as possible is a major concern. But this can be prevented if the whole process of land transfer becomes transparent, and proper land records in accordance with the market are maintained.

Conclusion

Clearly the LARR 2011 is much better than the inadequate Land Acquisition Bill of 1894 in which the landowners and peasants were greatly exploited by private companies as well as corrupt politicians. But it would be difficult to achieve these goals unless the government fills the loopholes and thereby protects the weak.

Kanchan Monga

Do you agree with Kanchan’s opinion about LARR 2011? Write your opinions in the comments box below.

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