Author(s): Jyotika Sood 
Date:Jun 25, 2014

There is speculation that provisions relating to ‘fair compensation’ may be tinkered with

imageCommerce ministry is said to be lobbying for relaxing provisions in the new Act to make way for government-led infrastructure projects under PPP (Photo: Surya Sen)

The Modi-government’s move to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (the new land acquisition Act) has drawn flak from the country’s largest farmers’ organisation, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). The law was implemented from January this year.

In a press statement issued Wednesday, BKU chief Rakesh Tikait said media reports have talked of government’s plan to amend the land acquisition Act. Any move to amend the law now would be against farmers and we urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to do so. “For the past 120 years farmers of this country have been suffering because of the 1894 land acquisition Act. Now when the new law has given some respite, the amendments would again mean more miseries,” said Naresh Tikait, BKU president.
The present law is a result of long struggle farmers have waged. “When everybody has right to decide what to sell and when, why not the farmers? It (land) is their resource and they have all the rights over it,” said Tikait, adding that provision relating to compensation based on market price in the current law should not be tinkered with,” said Tikait.

He warned that in case the government doesn’t listen to the farmers’ demand, they would be forced to hold nation-wide protests.

Union minister for rural development Nitin Gadkari has, meanwhile, already scheduled a meeting with all state chief ministers on June 27 to review the implementation of the Act when not even six months have passed since the Act came into force.

Although Gadkari has thrown the ball in the prime minister’s court, stating that the latter would take a final call, sources in the ministry say that the industry has been expressing its displeasure over provisions in the Act. “High compensation is the main contentious issue as it is two times the market rate in urban areas and four times in rural areas,” said Tikait.

Even the ministry of Commerce and Industry has been lobbying to keep government-led infrastructure projects out of the purview of land acquisition act provisions. In their submission to rural ministry, the commerce ministry had stated that acquiring land for roads, railways and ports had come to a halt with the implementation of the new Act. The main hurdle in these projects is the provision where consent from 70 per cent of the people whose land will be acquired is required for PPP projects.

CAG questions land acquisition in Odisha
On Monday, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on land acquisition and allotment in the Odisha was tabled in the ongoing Assembly session. According to the CAG report, concerns have been expressed over acquisition of land parcels and their allotment to companies like Tata, Bhushan, GMR group, Birla and Sesa Sterlite from 2001-2012.  CAG has asked the government to “realize under assessed compensation and government dues from promoters and pay  land owners, and a review of irregularities in allotment, misutilization and land that’s remained unused beyond the period of the MoU between the companies and the state”.

The report states that during the 11-year period, the state government through its nodal agency, Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IIDC), had allotted 29,769 acres (one acre equals 0.4 hectare) of private land and 16,963 acres of government land.

The report pointed out several flaws like incorrect application of“public purpose” and emergency provisions and under-assessment of compensation. It also identified various cases where industrial promoters were given land without considering impact on agriculture, the environment and irrigation.

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