Maharashtra Chief Secretary says 1894 Act is good enough

The Maharashtra Government and representatives of India Inc said the proposed land acquisition Bill would put the brakes on development, and the consequences would be disastrous.

Speaking at the India Economic summit, Maharashtra Chief Secretary, Mr Ratnakar Gaikwad, said the State had sent in its objections to the draft proposal. The Bill would halt all State-initiated land acquisitions as compensation would be far over market rates, and the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) way above board, he said.

The State's target of acquiring 60,000 hectares for the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation over the next three years would not be achieved if the draft goes through unchanged, Mr Gaikwad said.

The Chief Secretary said the 1894 Act on land acquisition was sound and would still serve the purpose.

Mr Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman, Hindustan Construction Company, said rural to urban migration was expected to be about 400 million over 20-30 years and development had to take place to accommodate the inflow, besides providing them employment. After the Land Ceiling Act, no price discovery had been possible and only land close to cities had become expensive.

Land acquisition was for urbanisation, whether industrial or otherwise. If it were for mere rural development then there was no need to acquire land, he said.

Panellists at the event said land acquisition should be within a time-bound framework and the buyer-seller relationship should not be locked in for an extended period. Compensation should be realistic and viable for the private-public partnership models to be implemented.

Development is a must in the country where 10 per cent owned the land and 90 per cent depended on the land for livelihood. Further, the proposed Act was retrospective, which could open up completed transactions too.

Mr Prashant Bangur, Executive Joint President, Shree Cement, said he was prepared to pay twice the amount the Government wanted for acquisitions, but unprepared to get into a long-term relationship with sellers. He said it must be understood that employment creation far exceeded the number of displaced persons, who in any case, were assured employment and other benefits.

Ms Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala, Chairman, Hirco Group, said there should be a clear differentiation between forced acquisition and voluntary sale agreements entered into between sellers and buyers. Land aggregation was a long-drawn process and the provisions it attracted should not fall under those applicable for forced acquisition.

Ms Nisha Agrawal, Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam India, an NGO, said conflict and deficit of trust in land acquisition with the corporate was primarily because “we work with the Government and the Government works with the corporate.” The three never meet, she added.

(This article was published on November 14, 2011)
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