Land acquisition law must avert conflict, push development(Comment)July 14th, 2011 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS
From Nandigram to Noida, the fury of farmers has brought the land acquisition issue into spotlight, underscoring the need for new legislation that provides for quick, fair and equitable compensation and a rehabilitation package to those parting with their land.
The federal government had, indeed, adopted a national rehabilitation and resettlement policy in 2007. But the necessary law to give effect to this policy is still to see the light of the day.
Result: We have a plethora of compensation and rehabilitation schemes in various states without a base standard at the national level. In fact, ever since the Special Economic Act was passed in 2005, the federal government has shown a lackadaisical attitude toward making the land acquisition process more amicable. Little wonder, many SEZ projects are being de-notified today.
The present mess is of the government’s own making. The raging controversy is leading to increasing realisation among land owners that the existing law does not protect their interests and that state governments have been using development as a ploy to forcibly acquire land at minimal, arbitrary prices for private builders or industry.
The antiquated Land Acquisition Act allows the government to grab land for public good and it is this clause that is exploited to acquire land without obtaining land owners’ consent. Courts, though, in the past couple of months, have scrapped such acquisition notifications in several cases on the ground that farmers were not given a proper hearing.
That is why there is a demand to redefine the scope of “public purposes” in the present context of land-related conflicts, arising from the government’s high-handed act of compulsorily acquiring land at prices much below the market rates.
Another reason why land owners feel short-changed is that the price shoots up after the builders acquire the change of land use (CLU) certificate from the authorities. That’s why there is a justified suggestion that CLU should be done through zoning plans while the land is still with farmers to ensure that they get the right price.
It is a matter of concern that stirs over land acquisition are threatening industrialisation and infrastructure building which, in turn, is adversely affecting investment. Some 30 percent road highway projects in the country are running behind schedule due to tardy land acquisition policy.
Statistics also show that projects of over $100 billion have been stalled. And in some cases, inordinate delay has resulted in scrapping of the project. While urbanisation is a key to economic growth, it is badly affected by land acquisition hurdles. So much so that we rank among the lowest in global urbanisation index.
It is unfortunate political parties are polarising electoral politics around the serious issue of land acquisition in view of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections due next year. Instead of playing competitive politics, they should forge a consensus on this issue, in the national interest.
One crucial debatable aspect of this issue is whether the government should acquire land or it should be left to the private sector. The National Advisory Council has advocated that land acquisition should not be left to market forces. But even apex industry bodies are divided over this issue. Some want land to be acquired by the government first. But others support the Haryana model that assures land acquisition from farmers by private sector at market price, along with annuity for 33 years. Haryana has further introduced non-litigation bonus.
Those opposing government interference say that the government has lost its credibility by misusing the prevailing law. They argue if farmers deal directly with land buyers at market rates, they will not feel being taken for a ride.
But leaving land acquisition totally in the hands of private parties runs the risk of artificial increase in prices through speculative activity. The Uttar Pradesh government in its newly-announced policy has restricted the role of government as facilitator, with provision for developers to directly acquire land from farmers at market rates with an enhanced annuity, in addition to a share in the developed land.
Whatever may be the case, the need of the hour is to draw up a model legislation at the national level for state governments to follow with suitable variations to integrate the rehabilitation concerns with development, planning and implementation process.
It should also be ensured that farmland is acquired with no adverse impact on our food security and the livelihood of farmers. Land acquisition process should also be humane, participatory, fair, transparent and hassle-free. It should be ensured that while giving fair and equitable deals to farmers, the interests of developers are also protected — a policy that not just manages land conflicts but also ensures unhindered development.
(14-07-2011-Vinod Behl is editor of Realty Plus monthly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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