I visited the Lavasa City a few days back. I was greatly unhappy that the industrial development colony led by Bhama Constructions Ltd., and pioneered by the Shetkari Sanghatana, was not allowed to materialise. Had it been allowed, Lavasa would have developed into an idyllic habitation sans pollution and the problems of displacement.
The matter of land acquisition and the compensation to be paid has been engaging the attention of the government for many years. The matter is not as simple as it would appear. Millions of transactions have taken place over time. Only a few are those of outright sale and purchase.
These transactions give rise to complex issues. Siblings might be involved in transactions that would give rise to contesting claims. A girl child may appear on the scene as a wedded daughter or a widowed daughter-in-law. This gives rise to contesting claims from the family of the parents as also the family of the in-laws. In any particular case, it is extremely difficult to settle who owns the land.
The second question is what compensation should be paid to the owner of the land. There are at least two views on the subject. One is the ex-ante view that attempts to look at the future needs of the claimant.
And, there is the post-facto view which tries to compensate the party depending upon the value of his claim. This complicates the problem of assessing the value of the claim on the basis of the actual merit and the legitimacy of the claim.
This complex problem was sought to be resolved, once for all, by a novel experiment in the form of Bhama Constructions Ltd., a farmers' company formed in 1997. The company, for the first time, tried to give a material form to the claims on land by issuing equity shares in exchange for the land contributed, as also the labour contributed in the work of the company. This solution, apart from resolving the problem of uncertainty on who could claim the compensation, sought to resolve yet another problem relating to the property right of a girl child.
In the past, the land rights of the girl child were denied by the specious argument that the land was stationary and could not be moved from its moorings. Therefore, it was argued, nothing is to be gained by the girl child insisting on her claim to the landed property. It would be in her interest to remain satisfied with whatever ‘ choli and bangles' settlement the brothers were prepared to make.
FROM BHAMA TO LAVASA
It is bewildering that the two later experiments made in this direction in Pune district of Maharashtra showed little innovativeness. Magarpatta was largely a family affair where the land transactions took place fairly amicably. Lavasa, the latest experiment in the matter, preferred to go for outright purchase of land rather than await the lengthy procedure of land acquisition.
Lavasa managed to secure one more advantage which the Bhama experiment failed to obtain. It came to be recognised as a public authority, which gave it all the required powers to purchase the land as also to undertake all development work, including roads, drainages and water purification projects.
Bhama suffered greatly because of the absence of this sanction. Once it announced its plans for development of the region, most farmers lost interest in the project since they calculated they would be beneficiaries of the developmental projects of Bhama in any case and there was little point in their remaining in the scheme.
A very promising experiment was killed by political leaders who were worried that this experiment will bring out in the public domain the real gap between the price of acquisition from the farmers and the price of first sale to the members of public.
Bhama could have easily met the challenges from the environmentalists. It already had plans in place for seed flooding as also for geomatics. It had made its preparations for large-scale shifting of trees to new locations.
If this experiment had been allowed to come through, it might have resulted in a major reorganisation of agriculture, so badly required for a second Green Revolution.
Bhama Constructions Ltd. provided an ideal solution to the problem of women's property right in agricultural land. Lavasa is much talked about as a model community of farmers. Its basis is a far more promising experiment of Bhama Constructions Ltd. that was wasted by political leaders who did not wish to bring into the public domain the actual profits they derive in land transactions.