• kewal sethi

the land acquisition

a lot of water has flown down the ganga since this was written in june 2012. a new land acquisition act has come up and there is improvement in the situation of those whose lands are acquired. still it would be well to remember the past as a guidance for future. hence this repetition of the post compensation for acquired land

hindu today (12 june 2012) carries a news item saying that land acquired for delhi airport from the farmers at Rs. 5 per square yard are now being given by concessionaire to entrepreneur for building hotels etc. at a huge cost without compensating the farmers.

this story is not unique. there are many other instances of this nature. in bhilai land was acquired for setting up the steel plant. it included housing for its employees besides facilities such as markets etc. later a lot of land was given to the cooperatives societies formed by the employees at much less than market rate but at a much higher rate than paid to the farmers at the time of acquiring land. since the land was given to bhilai steel plant for industry and ancillary purpose, and it was no longer needed for that purpose, the correct procedure would have been to hand back the land to the farmers. this was not even thought of.

in 1991 or thereabout, when i was principle secretary revenue, bhilai steel plant again proposed transfer of further land to private persons or housing purpose. shri shyama charan shukla, ex chief minister wrote to the then chief minister that the land should be given back to the government. it is for the government to allot the land to societies or others. he wanted the benefits of the increase in the value of land to go not to the industrial unit but to the government, who would, presumably, use it for public purpose. as things stood even government would not have returned the land to the farmers which would be correct legal procedure. i supported the contention of ex CM but i do not know what finally happened.

same is the case with BHEL bhopal. land acquired for industrial and ancillary purpose has been used for housing for ex employees and others. the land is not returned to the farmers. in the post independence enthusiastic days when the emphasis of nehru government was on rapid industriali-zation, land far in excess of the requirement, including possible expansion in the foreseeable future, was acquired. the land acquisition act was totally unfavourable to the farmers and the judicial process too complicated and the farmers too ignorant of law to ask for a reasonable assessment of requirement. krishak kalyan ayog, set up by government of madhya pradesh (of which i was the member secretary) had pointed this out in their report to the government. obviously no notice was taken of this.

the root cause of this malady was

1. we continued with the same mind set as the british masters who did not care for the farmers.

2. no revision of laws was taken up or even contemplated (except the hindu code bill) for quite some time (seventies or so).

3. all political power belonged to the elite, especially from the urban areas. the leadership did not come from rural areas. the rural elite also were absentee landlords whose main interest lay in the cities.

4. all planning was done by those who did not have knowledge about field conditions. they were merely following soviet union practices.

5. industrialization was adjudged as the only thing which required attention. agriculture got attention only from third five year plan 1961-66. even so priority remained the industrial progress.

we are still shy of giving the owners of the land full compensation despite some efforts by the civil society. (incidentally i considered the efforts of narmada bachao andolan of medhakar, et al, as more inclined towards blocking the process of development than of real concern for the land owners. in the name of adequate rehabilitation, the project was delayed by 45 years or so. more often than not, the ngos are led by considerations other than the interests of the land owners but that is another story to which we will return some other time.)


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