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Land use policy

Land use policy
Highlights

The Narendra Modi government is moving heaven and earth to hard sell its controversial land bill. The Congress crown prince is on a nationwide political pilgrimage to land him in limelight. The Chandrababu Naidu government has issued orders for acquiring land from those who refused to part with their land under land pooling. Everything seems to be revolving round land.

There is a need to protect the food and livelihood security of nation

The Narendra Modi government is moving heaven and earth to hard sell its controversial land bill. The Congress crown prince is on a nationwide political pilgrimage to land him in limelight. The Chandrababu Naidu government has issued orders for acquiring land from those who refused to part with their land under land pooling. Everything seems to be revolving round land.

Thus, a balanced land use policy is essential for propelling development without mortgaging food and livelihood security of the vulnerable India. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development in the last Lok Sabha, headed by the present Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, in its report stated that there was no official data base of land acquired by the governments since independence. The government also has no data on the people displaced due to land acquisition.

This indicates the agony of land acquisition in India. Based on unofficial studies and an expert group of Planning Commission, the committee estimated that since 1947 6.1 crore acres had been acquired and six crore people had been displaced. A majority of those displaced belong to the marginalised sections having no social, political or economic clout to influence rehabilitation policies.

About 40 per cent were tribals, 20 per cent were dalits and another 20 per cent were from other Backward Classes (OBCs). Meanwhile, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) study revealed that the rehabilitation policies for those who have social and economic clout are completely different, when compared to the helpless tribals and dalits, indicating a blatant class bias in the State policy towards the displaced.

The State never acquired land for private business in US and the European Union, and several Supreme Courts there placed bans on the acquisition of land for private companies. The then President George W Bush issued an executive order on June 23, 2006, mandating the government to acquire land only for the purpose of benefitting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing economic interests of private parties.

The Canadian Expropriation Act of 1985 does not allow expropriation of land to further the commercial interests of a private company. In the European Union, there is no provision in their laws for the acquisition by the State of land for private enterprises.

In Japan, even for a key infrastructural project that sought to expand Tokyo‘s Narita International Airport, the primary mode of obtaining land in the surrounding areas was through extensive negotiations and higher compensation packages offered to those who were willing to sell their land.

The Sumitra Mahajan Committee has quoted, “India is perhaps the only country where the State acquires land for profit-making private and PPP enterprises.” As land is a finite and non-renewable resource having multiple uses, India urgently requires a national policy on land use before enacting land acquisition laws.

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