Sonia Gandhi wake up to your promise, save farmers from cheap land grab

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

The Chairperson of the ruling UPA Sonia Gandhi and the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi are guilty of falling back on the promises they made to farmers for acquiring their land. The new amendments proposed in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 are designed to grab prime farmlands at throw-a-way prices, practically alienating farmers from their very source of livelihood.

Under the chairpersonship of Sonia Gandhi, the basic draft prepared by the National Advisory Council (NAC) had suggested minimum six times compensation for land acquired in rural areas and four times compensation for land acquired in urban areas on the basis of the market value.

But the Bill when first introduced in the Parliament said that compensation to be paid in rural areas will be double the market value ie Indian Stamp Duty and for urban areas it will be equal to the Indian Stamp Duty plus solatium in both the cases equivalent to 100% of the market value.

Further amendments has been proposed reducing the compensation amount in rural areas.

Earlier land was being acquired for public purposes which was generally meant for defence, railways, roads, irrigation, government educational institutions and hospitals. Land acquisition was never meant for setting up projects of corporates and multinational companies for reaping profits. The very definition of public purpose in the amendments has been changed to include infrastructure projects, all activities or items listed in the notification of the government in the Department of Economic Affairs – Infrastructure section vide March 27, 2012 excluding private hospitals, private educational institutions and private hotels. Practically all corporate activities in the name of public-private partnership projects, private companies for public purpose are designed to be permitted .

Earlier it was proposed in the original Bill that a committee be set up to examine the proposal for acquiring more than100 acre land . The Committee will be headed chief secretary and consist of secretaries of finance, revenue, rural development, social justice, tribal welfare, panchayati raj and concerned departments as may be specified by the State Government and three non-official experts from the relevant fields.
But in the amendments the proposal for setting up a committee has been done away with and all powers are vested in the District Collector.

In the amendments only 20% of the developed land has been offered to the farmers in lieu of compensation while the UP Government in its land acquisition policy of 2011 had offered 23% of developed land which the farmers refused to accept.

The Government has proposed 154 amendments changing the basic character of the original Bill which needs to be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee or Joint Committee or Select Committee.

In the amendments the Government under section 38A (3) has proposed that no acquisition of land shall be made in the Scheduled Areas. If such acquisition takes place it shall be done only as a demonstrable last resort. Prior consent of the concerned Gram Sabha or the Panchayats or the autonomous District Councils by resolution should be obtained for acquisition of land.

If the Government thinks that the land acquisition is an urgent necessity and the interests of the farmers should be a matter of concern, it should provide the same mechanism for land acquisition all over the country as proposed for that in the Scheduled Areas. As the farmers in the country are mostly small and marginal by the size of their holdings they need the same treatment at par with their brethren in the Scheduled Areas. There should be no case for differentiation on basis of tribal and non-tribal or on basis of religion.

(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)