Save farmlands from corporate hawks, ensure food security

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

It is a paradoxical situation where the Government is urging for food and nutritional security by passing the Food Security Bill in the Parliament and in the same breath encouraging loss of prime farmlands. Several provisions in The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 have been deliberately watered down to facilitate easy transfer of farmlands to corporate houses for reaping rich dividends. 

Government should come out with a National Land Use Plan immediately and there should be fresh look at categorisation of land on basis of this Plan. India should learn lessons from Brazil which has brought big chunks of non-farm lands into agriculture.

The definition of public purposes in the Land Acquisition Act 1894 is being deliberately changed to recognise activities of private industrial houses as activities for public purposes. In the name of public-private partnership and industrial projects the lands are being forcibly acquired from farmers in different parts of the country even as the land acquisition Bill is being debated in Parliament.

District Collectors should have no right to acquire land from any farmer without his consent.

Public Purpose definition should be limited to core functions of the Government performed with the public money and in no case acquisition should be made for the private corporations.  Any project drawing private profit cannot be considered as for public purpose.

There is a shrinkage of farmland due to unwarranted rapid urbanisation signalling danger to food security. The agriculture growth has slowed down and population growth is on the rise. From where will the Government gather food to feed millions of hungry? Will it resort to imports? The global food prices are skyrocketing and imports would mean a drainage of forex earnings.

On acquiring land the compensation to be paid to farmers should be based on the converted or future use of land.  It should be based on highest sale for similar lands in adjacent areas, multiplied by a factor of six times (including solatium) in rural areas and four times (including solatium)  in urban areas. The 10% developed land should be given to landowners on back lease without any charge. The cash amounts mentioned in the Bill should also be linked with commodity price inflation.

Farmers should also be permitted to do the same activities of development on their own lands on payment of external development charges as permitted to builders by the authority.  

Section 28A of the old Act provided for benefits to all affected families of the enhanced compensation awarded by the Court to one individual. There is no such provision in the current Bill. One should have a similar section in the new law too.

In Chapter XI of the Bill  - Temporary Occupation of Land - should be deleted as it s allows Government to acquire land for a company against farmers wishes. Companies are likely to misuse the powers given under this section, as they will first take land on a temporary basis, and when it becomes totally unfit for cultivation then ask the Collector to acquire it permanently. No arbitrary powers should be given to the District Collector.

To save the food security of the country any transfer of two crops agricultural land to non-agriculturists, in general, and to foreigners and NRI’s , in particular, be prohibited immediately.  


(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)