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Aligarh, Lalgarh and land acquisition

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The right of the state to acquire land for public good (known elsewhere in the world as expropriation or eminent domain) is always contentious. It has been especially so in India in recent years where the notion of public good has been extended to cover private parties who would like to set up industries or start mining. This happened most famously in Singur and Lalgarh in the last few years. It is, in part, the reason behind the Naxalite movement in the country.

Article 19 of the constitution guarantees the right to “acquire, hold and dispose of property”. Article 31 provides that “no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law.” This article also provides for compensation to be paid to a person whose property had been “taken possession of or acquired” for public purposes. However, Schedule VII allows the state and union governments to enact laws for “the acquisition or requisition of land”.

Now a new agitation has begun in UP. A fresh report from the Hindu says:

Within 12 hours of the Uttar Pradesh government brokering a midnight deal with the agitating farmers of Tappal in Aligarh district, violence broke out on Tuesday at Etmadpur in neighbouring Agra district, where farmers fought a pitched battle with the police demanding more compensation for lands.

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Agra and the Tehsildar were among the dozen injured in the clash. The condition of four farmers is stated to be critical.

Hundreds of farmers of Chauguna, Khalesar and Garhi Rahni villages blocked road traffic around noon and started throwing stones at police, who used force to disperse mobs.

The farmers were demanding compensation similar to the sum paid to their Noida counterparts (Rs.950 a square metre) for the land acquired for the Yamuna Expressway project.

Additional Director-General (Law and Order) Brij Lal said 27 farmers’ representatives of the three villages were engaged in talks with Commissioner of the Agra Division, Sudhir Bobade, and the DIG to find a solution to the impasse. The situation at Etmadpur is under control.

Put on the back foot by the farmers’ violent protests and the Opposition parties uniting on the issue, the Mayawati government offered to increase the compensation from Rs.450 a square metre to Rs.570 a square metre. The deal was clinched in Aligarh at 2 a.m. by Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh and representatives of farmers of the Tappal area. Mr. Brij Lal and farmers’ leader Ram Babu Kathelia were present.

Mr. Kathelia was arrested on August 14 after the violence in the villages under the Tappal police station, in which three farmers and a policeman of the Provisional Armed Constabulary were killed.

Ministers Jaiveer Singh and Chaudhary Lakshmi Narain, along with BSP MLA from Kol Mahendra Singh, were billeted in a guesthouse on Khair Road in Aligarh, trying to thrash out a deal with farmers.

The government also agreed to increase the compensation from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.10 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs.2 lakh for the injured. Mr. Shashank Shekhar Singh also announced that lands of those who do not want to part with it would not be acquired.

The issue has led to a rapproachment between the pro-industry Congress and the BJP in parliament: the usual spectacle of strange bedfellows. The BJP is happy to have any issue to beat the BSP government in UP with. In a very well written article, IE reports on the main issues in the debate:

The Congress-led government on Tuesday appeared close to mustering support for the proposed federal laws on land acquisition, with the principal opposition party BJP coming to its help. But the obduracy of key ally Trinamool Congress continues to pose a hurdle for the landmark legislation.

If enacted, the two bills in Parliament would help streamline the process of farmland acquisition for industry. Land acquisition delays have stalled a large number of infrastructure projects, especially in the road sector, and many big-ticket industrial projects.

The political move follows the killing of farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh district in police firing, the latest in the string of violence against land acquisition efforts. The farmers were protesting against what they called inadequate compensation for the land acquired to build the $2 billion six-lane expressway between Agra and New Delhi.

The BJP — which along with the CPI(M) had blocked the Bills during the first UPA administration — has found that political compulsions in Uttar Pradesh have forced it to change its mind on the matter. After leading a standing committee on rural development which considered the Bill and criticised it for “curtailing the rights of the state governments”, the party on Tuesday demanded that the Bills be brought before Parliament. Other parties too demanded that the Bills be cleared, since for the last few months, land acquisition issues have become more and more germane to the development debate. The examples of Posco, ArcelorMittal,Vedanta and now the Yamuna expressway have accorded political urgency to the matter.

That is where the government’s dilemma lies. Mamata Banerjee’s core objection is to a major provision in the Bill that industrial houses acquire 70% of the land required for an industrial project on their own, with the state governments pitching in with the residual 30%, that too for contiguity.

More than a year ago (July 25, 2009) TOI had reported on the opposition to the land-acquisition bill from Trinamool Congress:

At a meeting with government’s chief trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee, [Mamata Banerjee] is understood to have urged that these bills should not be introduced at all in Parliament. She was of the opinion that bills should be sent back to the rural development ministry and re-worked in keeping with her suggestions which she handed over in a note.

These suggestions are, that government doesn’t get into land acquisition at all; that where acquired land has not been put to the designated use (as in Singur now), it should be handed bank to the land owners; land held by government may be handed over to industry, and that private holdings only in mono-crop or barren land may be put up for acquisition by industry.

As it happens, the two bills, formulated in 2007, have already been through a standing committee in the last Lok Sabha. The government had pushed them through the 14th Lok Sabha in its dying days but failed to clear the Rajya Sabha hurdle.

Analysis of the bill is available in a website called India Together:

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 amends The Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The Bill redefines ‘public purpose’ as land acquired for defence purposes, infrastructure projects, or for any project useful to the general public where 70 per cent of the land has already been purchased. The Bill bars acquisition for companies except under the 70 per cent condition.

For acquisition resulting in large-scale displacement, a social impact assessment study must be conducted. Tribals, forest dwellers, and those with tenancy rights are also eligible for compensation.

Acquisition costs will include payment for loss or damages to land, and costs related to resettlement of displaced residents.

While determining compensation, the intended use of land and value of such land in the current market is to be considered.

The Bill establishes the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority at the state and central levels to adjudicate disputes resulting from land acquisition proceedings.

The Bill bars the jurisdiction of civil courts on all matters related to land acquisition. It is unclear whether there is a mechanism by which a person may challenge the qualification of a project as ‘public purpose.’

The analysis contains more, and is worth reading in full.


6 Responses

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  1. Sir,
    The crux of the matter lies in determining compensation. It is an admitted fact that 60% of all land deals involve “black money”. Hence the premise that current market rate is to be the deciding factor is wrong as registeration will only be for 40% of the value!
    The value to be further decided by the intended use is also ‘scam’ prone. Published puropse may be a road or railway track and some formula arrived at to “decide” the cost of land. Later, as is a fact in the case of the railways, Metro and DTC the said land is appropriated for building malls and hotels. Obvious ground for cheating the original owner.
    So the honest answer lies in the following:
    a) Pay the latest higest registered amount plus 70% to cater for “black” and inflation during the process of acquisition.
    b) Rate being for land and NOT the purpose; use not withstanding, all land should have the highest. DDA acquires land through the NCT of Delhi at 2000/- per meter and fixes reserve price (for Hotels) at Rs 4.00 lacs per meter (where development costs only 18% as per DDA Audit). The land owner pays for thousands of corrupt babus and their families at the cost of his own.
    c) The farmers and land lords are an unorganised sector. Hence, the Govt. is exploiting them. There must be no acquisition without consent.
    Col Chand


    August 19, 2010 at 3:08 am

  2. […] India there have been strong protests against governments acquiring farmlands to give to industries through the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). These peaked about two years ago. […]

  3. […] UP is burning again. ET reports: Violent protests by farmers against forcible acquisition of their land continued in Greater Noida and spread to other parts of western-Uttar Pradesh including Agra and Aligarh. Farmers clashed with the police which saw four people dead even as protestors set on fire the offices of JP Infratech which is constructing the Yamuna Expressway from Noida to Agra. … The fresh protests by farmers clearly indicates that the new land acquisition policy brought by the Mayawati government last year after similar agitation’s has failed to click with farmers still reluctant to hand over their land for building of townships and expressways by business houses. […]

  4. The land acquisition act required to be used as a instrument to change the phase of economy which is agrarian as 60% of GDP comes from agriculture, the primary sector of economy. The agriculturist is not conversant with the intricacies of secondary sector hence he has no option but demand high and comparable cash compensation. It is for the state that change of profession to earn livelihood is not a light matter. The care is to be taken of all the present requirement but also the future need of displaced families.

    These families are required adequate land. capital and expertise to start a new venture which is to be programmed not only for their present but also for future. The effected families whose land holding becomes uneconomic be given liberal finance at differential rate of interest, education and employment to their children at par with the facilities given to scheduled casts and OBC class for next 20 years. The objection and suggestion so far on the bill are more political rather than economical as neither prior consultation to determine compensation are getting consent does not
    meet the exigency or contingency of change of life due to change of profession/occupation. The whole concept to amend the Land Acquisition Act required to be rationalized.

    Girraj Yadav

    May 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm

  5. […] for builders and industry has been strongly opposed in the recent past by landholding farmers. Agitation in Bengal and UP grabbed headlines: especially since irrigated land, suitable for crops was […]

  6. […] sometimes violent, opposition to land acquisitions by landholding farmers in the preceding years. Agitation in Bengal and UP grabbed headlines: especially since irrigated land, suitable for crops was […]

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