Representative image.
MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has acquired a staggering 1.92 lakh hectares of land – 4.4 times the size of Greater Mumbai – over nearly 15 years. These details have emerged from the latest data compiled by the state government and accessed by The Times of India. Information on land acquisition is rarely made available for public scrutiny.

Most of the land acquired is agricultural and the bulk of it has been earmarked for irrigation projects, the data shows.

Irrigation projects account for almost 76 per cent of the land acquired during this period, while industry accounts for just 14 per cent, the data showed. Around 4.4 per cent of the land was allotted to road works while a mere 1.74 per cent for the railways. Of the remaining land, 0.67 per cent was earmarked for hospitals and 3.3 per cent came under a miscellaneous category termed “others.”

The statistics were compiled by the state’s revenue department for the period between January 2001 and August 2015.

The distressed Vidarbha region, infamous for farmer suicides, has seen the largest chunk of acquisition during this period. Of the 1.92 lakh hectares acquired across the state, almost 37 per cent was from the Vidarbha region. The drought-hit Marathwada region was next, with 28 per cent of the land acquired from this belt. The Konkan region reported the least acquisition, accounting for just 8.6 per cent during this period.

The lion’s share of land acquired was farm land, the data shows. Farm land accounts for 88 per cent of the land acquired in 5 of the 6 revenue divisions of the state. Information on agricultural land acquired in the sixth revenue division of Nagpur was not provided to the state government.

The data reveals the extent of agricultural land acquisition in different parts of the state. In the Amravati division, which is part of Vidarbha, all the 25,999.40 hectares acquired was agricultural land. In North Maharashtra, 96.5 per cent of the land acquired by the state was agricultural. In the Konkan, the share was 90 per cent while in Marathwada, it was 94 per cent.

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Interestingly, the Nagpur division within Vidarbha has seen the largest land acquisition for industry in the last 15 years. The division accounts for 35 per cent of the 26, 967 hectares acquired for industry. The next largest chunk came from North Maharashtra, which accounts for 20 per cent of land acquired for industry. Fifteen per cent of land acquired for industry came from the Konkan belt and 14.5 per cent from Marathwada.

Land rights groups are questioning whether the state actually uses the land it acquires. “The state is acquiring much more land than it actually needs. How much of this land is utilized?” asked Ulka Mahajan from the Sarvahara Jan Andolan. “If it has acquired so much land for irrigation, then why is the state’s irrigation potential so low?” she asked.

She has also opposed large-scale acquisition of agricultural land. “If so much agricultural land is being acquired, it will impact the livelihood of farmers. They may not succeed in finding other means of employment,” said Mahajan.

Officials said that in recent years, the state government has hiked the compensation offered to farmers. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, for instance, has acquired a large portion of land for the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor by paying over Rs 20 lakh an acre. In May this year, the state government increased compensation under the Land Acquisition Act. Land acquired by the state now attracts compensation ranging from 2.5 to 5 times its market value.