Fair landing

| Updated on March 09, 2018

The poor must feel well looked after, as indeed must the ill-informed NGOs who take up their cause.

The draft Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (LARR 2011) has been a long time coming. But what has finally arrived, notwithstanding its clumsy name, is a very reasonable set of suggestions which will, if implemented in the right spirit, go a long way in sorting out highly intractable problems. The idea that the acquisition of land should be simultaneously accompanied by the resettlement and rehabilitation of those whose lands have been taken away is fair, as is the intention of the Government not to acquire land on behalf of private firms for their private interest. This practice was unconscionable by any moral yardstick and it is good that it will be given up. However, there is a loophole which could become bigger with time: The Bill allows the Government to acquire land and hand it over to a private firm provided there is a clear public purpose. But ‘public purpose' has not been fully defined. In the Section on definitions, Clause 5 is very vague. It merely says “Land for private companies for public purpose”. Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development, who will be piloting the Bill, would be well advised to refine this further by clearly stating the scope of such purposes. Otherwise, Noida-Extension type situations may well recur because, in this respect at least, the Bill does not break fresh ground. The decision not to acquire multi-cropped land alone could also create problems because what would constitute multi-cropping? This too should be defined sensibly, either in terms of days required for the second and/or third crop or the proportion of revenue these second/third crops constitute in the total income of the farmer.

The compensation formula — twice the market value in urban areas and six times in rural — also seems fair. But it is bound to make land acquisition very expensive and, perhaps, defeat the purpose of the new Bill, which is to make acquisition easier. It will also lead to attempts by areas in the peripheries of large towns and cities not to have municipalities depending on land values. This is because, at present, an area is rural if it doesn't have a municipality. Gurgaon, the third richest city in the country, was technically rural until quite recently. The implicit bias of the Bill becomes very clear in the sections on resettlement and rehabilitation entitlements. Far more care has been taken here with the details. But there can be no quarrel with this. The poor must feel well looked after, as indeed must the ill-informed NGOs who take up their cause. The draft Bill also provides Mr Ramesh and the Government enough points to counter virtually all their arguments. It is practical in that sense as well.

Finally, the Bill makes the Collector of the district as the empowered authority. But a collector is a relatively junior officer and could succumb to pressure. This aspect needs to be looked at carefully.

Published on August 01, 2011

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