Passage of the Land Acquisition Bill by the Lok Sabha on Thursday will be welcomed at least by those small farmers and tribal people who have so far...
Passage of the Land Acquisition Bill by the Lok Sabha on Thursday will be welcomed at least by those small farmers and tribal people who have so far been covered by a 19th century law governing acquisition of land for industrial units, a law that almost left them helpless in the face of official decisions to acquire their lands for a pittance so that industries might come up on them. However, it is no less true that not many industries came up on such lands as had been allotted for the purpose. For instance, farmers in Odisha resisted semi-government efforts to acquire their lands which could easily be used for cultivation, so much so that the company abandoned the project.
Meanwhile, off and on reports have been appearing in the media of industries having converted such allotted land for construction of apartments to be let out or sold! Who, other than the poor farmer, lost out in the bargain? Against this background, the provision in the Bill mandating payment to farmers of up to four times the market rate for their land bought for industry and infrastructure is unexceptionable. "We believe that the land Bill strikes a fair balance," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters, and he is right. Farmers protesting against what they see as unfair land acquisitions have stalled projects in recent years.
The Bill's pricing rules would oblige developers to pay up to four times the market rate for land in rural areas and twice the rate in urban areas. Displaced people must also be given homes and jobs, under the Bill. "This Bill will protect farmers and the rights of farmers," said Dushyant Naagar, the head of a farmers' lobby group in Uttar Pradesh. Other farmers' groups, however, say the Bill does not provide adequate compensation.