Land acquisition bill has been held up, not because of public hearing or mass movement, not even for the political compulsion to appease Mamata Banerjee. but because of opposition from several ministers who felt it would stall "urbanisation and industrialisation"!
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Controversial Bill on land acquisition and the compensation and rehabilitation of those whose land is sought to be acquired ran into opposition in the Cabinet on Tuesday, resulting in referral to a Group of Ministers (GoM). While even the British restricted acquisition to government projects termed as "public purpose", our elected governments amended the Act of 1894 to legitimise acquisition for private companies and public-private partnership projects.The Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill (LARR) 2012 has been referred to empowered group of ministers not just because of public hearing , or mass movement, not even for the political compulsion to appease Mamata Banerjee.,but it happened because ministers are much concerned to defend the corporate interest!The Telegraph Kolkata published a story to expose the government`s priority at the cost of the people of India. The daily reports that the land acquisition bill has been held up, not because of the familiar reasons but because of opposition from several ministers who felt it would stall "urbanisation and industrialisation".The corporate lobbying tells us, we the people who in fact govern India amidst the coalgate standoff still continued and one after one scam inflict the balck money hegemony ruling India.Differences within the Union cabinet have nixed the plans of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to fast-track a new legislation for land acquisition and compensation, widely seen as a key measure to spur investment in the economy, this is the gist.Mamata Banerjee may vehemently oppose the move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail or the tabling of the forward trading bill, but her party won't take the dissent so far as to rock the UPA boat.But Mamata`s political identity depends on the fate of the Bill as the Supreme Court on Friday sought response of Tata Motors Ltd on a special leave petition filed by the West Bengal government challenging the quashing of the Singur land acquisition Act by the state high court. bench of justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad, however, said that the Calcutta high court's interim order which had stated that the state need not part with the land for two months to allow it file its appeal would continue.The West Bengal government had moved the apex court against the high court order, which had struck down the Singur land acquisition Act that allowed the state government to reclaim 400 acres of land given to Tata Motors. In its appeal, filed through advocate Abhijit Sen Gupta, the state government had said the high court has erred in quashing the Act. As Parliament has been continuously stalled by BJP demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation over alleged irregularities in coal block allocation, key bills on internal security, farmers, price rise and economic slowdown continue to remain pending.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has just returned from Delhi after attending a UPA co-ordination committee meeting, has expressed doubt over the tenure of the UPA government at the Centre.
"I don't know how long the Centre will stay and when it will cease to exist. We are trying to ensure that it stays," she said at the first political convention of Trinamool Yuva. She believes that Trinamool will emerge as a party worth reckoning in the national political scenario.
Despite Mamata's pledge to support the UPA government, it is not willing to give any respite to the Manmohan Singh government in its opposition to FDI in retail and the Pension Bill. Trinamool parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay described these bills as "controversial" and said retail traders were worried over the entry of FDI in retail.
Her partymen heaped praise on her saying that her Singur and Nandigram agitations were "the biggest democratic movements in India". "Now the country needs you," a leader said, projecting her as the future prime minister.
The amended land acquisition bill could run into rough weather with the ruling UPA constituent, Trinamool Congress, opposing the idea of the state acquiring land for private companies and PPP projects.
"There has been no change in our position. We object to the state being involved in acquiring land, and forcible evacuation of people. We maintain that the price of land should be determined through negotiations between the purchaser and sellers, and the government should not play intermediary," said leader of the Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay.
The rural development ministry, which is piloting the bill, has said that the government can't withdraw from acquiring land for PPP projects or private companies when it was for public purpose. The ministry has tightened the definition of public purpose. The bill proposes the government's involvement in land acquisition only when there are PPP and private companies, involved in "production of public goods or the provision of public services for physical infrastructure, social infrastructure and human development projects, including those involved in production of intermediate goods and services." The ownership of land acquired for PPP projects will rest with the government. However, even this is not acceptable to the Trinamool Congress.
The rural development ministry maintains that the UPA ally should have no cause for worry. It argues that state governments are free not to be involved in acquiring land for private companies. An official close to the developments explained that the proposed legislation applies only to acquisitions initiated under the provisions of the Act, and private purchase over and above the threshold determined by the state government
Few of the bills, piling up because of the impasse include Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, and the Chemical Weapons (Amendment) Bill.
Most of these Bills were introduced in 2011 and 2010.
The Congress and BJP have been blaming each other for piling up of the proposed legislations.
The proposed land acquisition bill will be introduced in the Lok Sabha after incorporating the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development, the Rajya Sabha was informed.
"Based on the recommendations of the Committee or otherwise, the Department of Land Resources proposes to introduce official amendments to the Bill in the Lok Sabha," Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Kumar Adhikari told Rajya Sabha in a written reply.Adhikari informed the House as per a clause of the Bill, when any land "acquired under this Act remains unutilised for a period of 10 years from the date of taking over the possession, the same shall return to the Land Bank of appropriate government by reversion".
The Hindu reported:Despite the revisions, the Bill has come in for vociferous objections from two sides. Provisions such as mandatory consent by 80 per cent of landowners, a social impact assessment of projects, and the need for resettlement rather than mere cash compensation have raised the ire of business lobbies, who feel that industrial and infrastructure projects will be stalled. According to government sources, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath raised several of these issues at the Cabinet meeting.
However, farmers' rights groups and civil society activists speaking on behalf of landless labourers and others dependent on the land for their livelihood have said the provisions are not stringent enough. They oppose the idea of the government acquiring land for private and PPP projects, even if they are in public interest.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh recently admitted that economic worries have forced him to make changes to the Bill in order to dispel the impression that it was pro-farmer and anti-industry. For instance, he had changed his mind on retrospectively applying the law.
"Had the economy been growing at nine per cent per year, I may not have changed my view," he said. "But the current economic circumstances dictate the need to make the Bill perceptively more investor-friendly."
I could not go to Delhi to join the protest rally against the bill, but activists like Roma and NAPM bulletins kept me quite updated.NAPM accuses of Corporate lobbying behind policy making and legislation. It is justified the mainstream media now.The Union cabinet held back clearance to the amended bill a year after approving the original and more stringent version.On the Prime Minister's advice, the bill was referred to a group of ministers that may be set up after Manmohan Singh returns from the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Iran.Mind you,other than Ajit Singh, no ally — the usual suspect — found fault with the amended bill, which lays down guidelines for land acquisition for public purposes, including such projects by private industry, and for compensation and rehabilitation.
Medha Patkar, Vimal Bhai, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi and Madhuresh Kumar issued a press statement on land acquisition that the governemnet should protect the interest of the farmers, workers and lanless .Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to refer the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill (LARR) 2012 to the Group of Ministers, as Cabinet could not agree on the provisions of the Bill as it stands. It is unfortunate. Going by the news reports Prime Minister is paying attention to the objections raised by the Ministry of Commerce, Civil Aviation, Urban Development, Highways and others, while the voices of farmers organisations, social movements and concerns raised by the Ministries of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Housing and Urban Development are being ignored. This shows clearly the priorities of the UPA government and exposes the claims of the Ministers sitting in the Cabinet and claiming to represent interests of farmers, workers and landless. Their constituency needs good roads to their villages, schools and hospitals and not airports and 6 - 8 lane highways like Yamuna Expressway which are profit making ventures for corporates directly or through public-private joint ventures.
The referring of the Bill to the Group of Ministers is a clear indication of the pressure from the corporate houses who want to continue their profit making ventures. All party Parliamentary Standing Committee has given its recommendations which should be used to improve the Bill rather than dilute it further. It should act as the guidelines to the UPA government to bring the revised Bill sooner in the Parliament rather than continue the forcible land acquisitions for the private corporations. NAPM demands that the new GoM must not be headed by anti-farmer, pro-corporate minister, it has to be either tribal affairs, rural development or social justice empowerment minister.
Ignoring the Committee recommendations, the Bill has widened the definitions of 'Public Purpose', beyond acceptable limits which even British never did, by creating a category of 'public interest' projects, fraudulently. Forcibly acquiring land and everything attached to land (crores of rupees worth minerals or invaluable ground water) from farmers for the profit – making millionaires is the grand design of the Indian rulers in collusion with the corporations.
Liz Mathew makes it quite clear in the Live mint. he writes:
The new land acquisition Bill was among the key legislative reforms the government had earlier promised to embark on after the presidential elections. That plan hasn't worked, though, and the government has spent most of the monsoon session fighting the opposition's accusations on corruption following a damning indictment of the government's coal allotments by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
"A lot of ministries have given their suggestions. They were not adequately heard and hence the matter has been referred to GoM," said a cabinet minister, who did not want to be identified.
According to another top official, the ministerial group will be constituted immediately after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from his four-day trip to Tehran, where he is attending a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. "The Bill is expected to be passed in the winter session," added this person, who also did not want to be identified.
In the Bill, renamed as the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2011, the rural development ministry has rejected a parliamentary committee's suggestion that the government should not acquire land for public-private-partnership projects, but had accepted that land procured for special economic zones (SEZs) and some defence projects cannot be exempted from the purview of a land acquisition law.
The official added that five ministers, mainly those holding portfolios dealing with infrastructure, had expressed their apprehensions that the legislation would lead to unreasonable delays in the process of acquisition of land and delay projects. According to another person familiar with the developments, urban development minister Kamal Nath, who opposed the current form of the Bill, spoke for 10 minutes, during which he said some provisions in the Bill would stall urbanization and industrialization. This person, too, did not want to be identified.
The Hindu edit clearly points out that the Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 seems to be driven by a desire to make acquisition for industrialisation and urbanisation easier.
One started reading the new Draft National Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 with expectations of a great improvement over the 2007 Bills. There are indeed some very good features in the new Bill but, on the whole, one must regretfully report disappointment. Let us see how the Bill deals with some of the key issues involved.
(i) Acquisition of agricultural land: The Bill rules out the acquisition, not of all irrigated agricultural land, but of multi-cropped irrigated agricultural land. That limited exclusion seems rather half-hearted.
(ii) Avoiding or minimising displacement: A serious concern about the trauma of displacement does not seem to be the driving force behind the Bill. The principles of 'no forced displacement' and 'free, informed prior consent' are not mentioned. (Incidentally, the condition of consent by 80 per cent of the land-owners applies only to land-acquisition by the government for companies including PPP cases, and not to governmental acquisition for itself. It appears that there has been no dilution at all of 'eminent domain'.) There are indeed a number of good provisions relating to displacement (SIA, review of SIA by an Expert Committee, consideration of 'less displacing alternative', public hearing, etc.), but the final decision is that of the bureaucracy. If a statutory clearance is needed for cutting a tree or for causing an environmental impact, should it not be required for displacing people? If the National Rehabilitation Commission mentioned in the 2007 Bill had been retained, a statutory displacement clearance by it could have been prescribed, but the present Bill envisages no such Commission.
(iii) Inadequacy of compensation: The present Bill increases the compensation amount significantly. This is welcome. Whether the earlier problems of delays and corruption in the payment process will disappear or diminish, remains to be seen.
(iv) The acquisition of land by the state for private companies: A view, held by many for a long time, is that there is no reason why the state should use its sovereign power to acquire land for private companies which are primarily in business for profit and not for conferring benefits on the public.
The 2007 Bills had sought to reduce the extent of land acquisition by the state for a company to 30 per cent , if the company purchases 70 per cent of the land needed by negotiation. The present Bill does away with the 70:30 formula, but provides for 'partial' acquisition by the state for a company if a company so requests. Presumably 'partial' acquisition could go up to near-full acquisition by the state. This seems a retrograde step.
(v) Private purchase: As for private negotiation, the Minister himself refers in his Foreword to the "asymmetry of power (and information) between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose lands are being acquired", but the Bill provides no mechanism to reduce that asymmetry. It doubtless extends the R&R provisions to private negotiated purchases of land but provides no safeguard against unfair negotiation. (Even the extension of the R&R provisions to negotiated purchases — the legality of which may be challenged — applies only where a company buys 100 acres or more, and that threshold can be easily side-stepped in ways that need not be spelt out here.) One wishes that the Minister had strengthened the hands of the weaker party in the negotiation by providing — this is merely an illustration — that the compensation that the land-owners would have got under this Bill if the land had been acquired by the government (to be determined by the collector) would be the floor below which the price negotiated by the company with the land-owners shall not fall.
(vi) Change of land use: That safeguard might ensure a fair price, but there is also the question of transfer of agricultural land to non-agricultural use and the implications for food security. One possibility might be to say that all acquisition of land, including acquisitions for companies, must be only by the state; but that does not seem desirable and, in any case, it is not really an answer to the problem of land-transfer away from agriculture. Another possibility is that private purchases of agricultural land should be subject to state regulation from the point of view of land-use. That might be open to the objection of undue interference with a landowner's right to sell his land. On the whole, the answer to the question of minimising transfers of agricultural land to non-agricultural use might lie in policies supportive of agriculture rather than in control or regulation over land transactions.
(vii) Definition of 'public purpose': An issue that has persistently figured in the debate during the last decade or two is the need to narrow the definition of 'public purpose' and limit it to a few strictly governmental purposes (schools, dispensaries, etc). The present Bill moves in exactly the opposite direction. It defines 'public purpose' very broadly and leaves it to the bureaucracy to decide each case. Is it right to assume that any industry ipso facto serves a public purpose warranting the alienation of agricultural land? For instance, in the Singur episode land acquisition was for 'industry', i.e., Tatas' small car factory; was that 'public purpose'? It can be so declared under the present Bill. Again, 'infrastructure' includes 'tourism', which would permit the acquisition of land for building hotels. It seems desirable to define 'public purpose' somewhat more stringently.
(viii) Coverage of 'project-affected persons': The Bill refers to loss of primary livelihoods but links it to the acquisition of land. The term 'livelihoods' is illustrated by a reference to the gathering of forest produce, hunting, fishing, etc; there is no reference to sellers of goods and services to the people in the project area, who will lose their livelihoods when the people whom they serve move away to resettlement areas. It is not clear whether they will be regarded as project-affected persons.
(ix) Social Impact Assessment: On Social Impact Assessment the present Bill is an improvement on the 2007 Bill, but the idea of SIA still falls short: it does not cover the disappearance of a whole way of life; the dispersal of close-knit communities; the loss of a centuries-old relationship with nature; the loss of roots; and so on. It is good that the SIA will be reviewed by an independent multi-disciplinary expert body, but it should first be prepared by a similar body. The Bill leaves the SIA to be prepared by the "appropriate government."
(x) Rehabilitation package: The rehabilitation package is distinctly inferior to the packages already established in certain projects. The principle of 'land for land' has been abandoned. It figures only in the case of irrigation projects, and there the Bill envisages one acre per family instead of two acres as in the Sardar Sarovar Project. There are two points here. First, it is not clear why the Bill specifies irrigation projects; hydroelectric projects and flood control also have the same impacts as irrigation projects, and in any case many projects are 'multi-purpose' projects. Secondly, compensation and rehabilitation should have reference not to the nature of the project but to the nature of the impact. Whatever be the project, if an agricultural community is uprooted from its land and homestead, it has to be enabled to practise agriculture elsewhere, and not expected to become carpenters or weavers or traders.
(xi) Other matters: A number of officials and institutions are specified in the Bill, such as the Collector, Administrator of R&R, Commissioner of R&R, etc., but it is only in the R&R Committee that there is a significant non-official presence. The National Monitoring Committee is not 'participatory'; apart from officials, it includes only a few experts. As indicated earlier, the idea of a National Rehabilitation Commission has been abandoned.
Incidentally, it is not clear why displacement by natural calamities should be brought within the purview of this Bill. There is a vital difference between unavoidable displacement caused by nature and deliberate displacement caused by human decisions.
Summing up, the Bill seems to be essentially driven by a desire to make land acquisition for industrialisation and urbanisation easier. It is clear that the Bill, which does contain many good features, nevertheless requires substantial improvement.
The Bill has gone through certain improvements based on suggestions received from various social movements and recommendations of the Standing Committee, yet it falls short of what is required to protect natural and human resource-based communities and uphold truly democratic development planning. This is the view of the masses, not the corporates. On which side are the government and political parties? They can't sit on the fence when farms are burning !
Last week, the Cabinet deferred discussion on the newly renamed Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2012, which was scheduled to be introduced in Parliament in the monsoon session. On Tuesday, several Ministers — mostly from infrastructure ministries — brought up concerns about provisions in the Bill, resulting in further delay as the matter will now be decided by a GoM.
The original Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, was introduced in Parliament last September and referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. The panel's report was submitted in May this year, following which the Rural Development Ministry re-wrote the Bill to incorporate many of its recommendations.
After the original bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last September, it was sent to a standing committee several of whose recommendations have been included in the amended version, the "Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill".
The standing committee's suggestion that the government should not get involved in land acquisition for private industry was, however, rejected by the rural development ministry, which drew up the draft.
The original bill said the government would acquire land for public-private partnership (PPP) projects and private companies only with the consent of 80 per cent of the project-affected people, a category that includes the landowners as well as those dependent on the land for their livelihood. The revised bill relaxes this provision, saying consent is needed from 80 per cent of the landowners only.
A few thousand representatives of various people's movements from across the country gathered at Jantar Mantar in the national capital. They are Dalits, Adiviasis, sections of unprotected working class including farmers and fish-workers but they all form one 'biradari' of those who live off land, water, forest. They are the ones who produce, distribute, build, operate, clean, sell, drive and do all that enable society to survive, proceed and progress. But the tragedy is that they have to battle for their own survival. And that is what they do, through non-violent means, against a state that plots to evict them, rob them of their meagre resources, transfer the capital in their hands to corporates in the name of development and then compel them to beg for rehabilitation. Asserting their right to resources and to make their own plans to develop those resources, they are also questioning a development model that is undemocratic, inequitable and unjust.
In Medha`s words:They are at Jantar Mantar to agitate against the upcoming 'Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill'. They want to convey the message that it is time to review and discard the British legacy of forcible acquisition on the basis of 'eminent domain' of the state and stress the eminent domain of the people who are both at the root of democracy as well as its top. When money and labour, two of the three capital resources for any 'development' project (a dam, industry, infrastructure etc.) can't be taken by force, how can any statutory agency forcibly acquire the third resource — land?
The Telegraph reports:"The original bill had more stringent conditions. It is surprising that the cabinet, which approved the original bill, is saying the amended bill is anti-industrialisation and anti-urbanisation," National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena said.
Introducing the bill last year, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had said: "The bill aims to ensure a humane, participatory (and) informed consultative and transparent process for land acquisition for industrialisation, development of essential infrastructure facilities and urbanisation with least disturbance to owners of land and other affected families."
Saxena said Ramesh's statement, which would have reflected the government's view at the time, was clearly that the bill would "facilitate industrialisation and urbanisation".
Among those who opposed the draft bill today was urban development minister Kamal Nath, who wanted deletion of the requirement for a social impact assessment by the district administration in consultation with the gram sabha. (See chart)
The amended bill says compensation should be twice the market rate in urban areas and two to four times the market rate in rural areas depending on the project's distance from the nearest urban area.
In one way, though, the amended bill is "tougher" than the original, which said the proposed law would not apply to land acquisition under a set of 16 central laws. These included the Special Economic Zones Act, Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, Atomic Energy Act, Electricity Act, Railways Act, Works of Defence Act and Cantonment Act.
Following the standing committee's advice against exempting any of these 16 acts from the land bill's provisions, the revised bill says the land acquisition law will apply to the SEZ Act, Works of Defence Act and Cantonment Act.
For the other 13 laws, land acquisition will be conducted as before but the compensation and the rehabilitation-and-resettlement benefits will be the same as those under the land acquisition bill.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma has opposed bringing SEZs under the land acquisition bill.
While even the British restricted acquisition to government projects termed as "public purpose", our elected governments amended the Act of 1894 to legitimise acquisition for private companies and public-private partnership projects. Prime rural and urban land is being acquired, while lakhs of hectares of barren waste land or acquired but unused land is being ignored. The policy has created havoc. In urban areas, basti after basti is evicted in the name of 'redevelopment', ensuring huge profits for builders and developers. The results are obvious. With more than 18 lakh hectares of agricultural land directed to non-agricultural purpose in 10 years, and the urban land ceiling acts in States having been repealed, houses are beyond the reach of the middle class. Between 25 and 60 per cent of urban poor live in slums or are homeless.
The recent report of the all-party committee on the Bill appreciates the issues and reservations raised by many of us: no forcible acquisition for private or PPP projects; no acquisition of agricultural land — one crop or multiple crop; and bringing under the purview of this Act, all Central Acts used for land acquisition in sector such as mining, highways, railways, ports etc. It also recognises the role of the Gram Sabha and Basti Sabha, in deciding public purpose to planning the project, deciding the R&R and then monitoring it. This is nothing new, but reiterates the framework provided through Article 243 (73rd and 74th Amendment) of the Constitution, incorporated in 1992-93. If the land allotted to any industry/project is not used for five years, it can go back to the landowner, the report recommends.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Rural Development is not agreeable to many of these reasonable proposals. Only multiple-crop land can be excluded, it says. How is this possible if, for instance, a single-crop plot is sandwiched between two multiple crop ones? Today's non-irrigated land can be tomorrow's irrigated. Rural development should have agriculturists as the prime beneficiaries, not the corporates. The latter are pushing state acquisition through the Ministry of Rural Development for their own benefit. Why should the MoRD or the government bow before them? The answer lies in the politician-bureaucrat-corporate nexus.
But the movements can't submit to this. They are demanding that the government not act as the property dealer for private corporations. Public purpose itself is defined by the Ministry of Rural Development in a manner worse than in the British Act.
The weakest part endorsed by both the committee and the MoRD is, however, rehabilitation. The number of displaced/affected people since Independence is anywhere between eight and 12 crore (the number is never final as many categories are left out, such as canal-affected persons in dam constructions, and where the government has no comprehensive record). Up to 86 per cent of this number has been left pauper for generations. Whether it is Bhakra Nangal or Narmada, coastal communities of fish-workers, slum dwellers or victims of industrial development, each State has lakhs of families waiting to be rehabilitated, and still in struggle mode.
The only progressive rehabilitation policy in Sardar Sarovar dam-Narmada Project could be brought about only through a continuous struggle over the past 27 years by the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Why can't the same provisions become part of the new Act, people ask. The answer is: no political will. Only cash — four to six times the market value, as in the Haryana, Gurgaon or U.P. models — is not rehabilitation. 'Cash' was offered by the British as well. It has failed to ensure livelihood. Today's market can be very deceptive and elusive for simple farmers or labourers. Why can't a government ensure an alternative source of livelihood using the same cash instead of destroying and dividing integrated, non-cash-based communities?
In short, the opportunity to democratise and decentralise planning to minimise diversion of land and destruction of agriculture, and to stop uprooting our own people must be viewed with all seriousness. People in every State are demanding an end to these policies. If this cry is not responded to by changing the Bill to incorporate the committee's recommendations and calling for wider consultations for true land reforms, serious conflict can only intensify, for which the present rulers will be forced to pay a heavy price in 2014.
Medha Patkar responds
The response to my article by Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, and his colleagues is a welcome move towards a public debate which we have suggested, time and again, should be held in every State with all people's organisations. I would like to briefly reply to some points in the Minister's response:
His argument that land is finite cannot be used to justify forcible acquisition. The Bill proposed by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) is clinging on to a colonial legacy. The consent of the gram sabhas, the community and people should be the precondition before any natural resource, land or mineral, is acquired. Exceptions can be made in post-calamity, post-riot situations or in acquisitions of land holdings that are above the ceiling. Can a decentralised Development Planning Act serve the purpose? Let the community put forth its vision and plan as per Article 243 of the Constitution; what is completely unacceptable is for the government to acquire land for private and PPP projects.
Saving agricultural land for food security and for the livelihood of crores in this country is a must for our survival. The All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee itself has realised this. Not 18 lakh, but 180 lakh hectares (typographical error in the original article) was diverted in a decade for non-agricultural purposes. We are not against, but for true industrialisation. The trend of industries grabbing land and public resource, next to expensive public infrastructure and using it for recreation goes against all norms of public purpose.
It must be reversed. The States too must be restrained in the public interest from undertaking forcible acquisition.
"Public Purpose," as defined in the Bill is widened beyond acceptable limits through a new fraudulent category of "public interest" projects. Even the British never did this.
The rehabilitation provided by the Bill is certainly not fair, nor adequate for an alternative livelihood. Cash being no option, land for land as provided in the 2007 policy (with "may" as a prefix) is also not in the amended bill. How can the government not have enough land for rehabilitation, when it can and does purchase thousands of acres of land for private corporations and entities? Also, why is no one talking about rehabilitation of those already displaced? Make the law applicable with retrospective effect and include all other Acts with the "acquisition" clause under the new Act.
The present Bill has gone through certain improvements based on our critique and the recommendations of the Standing Committee, yet it falls far short of what is required to protect natural and human resource-based communities and uphold truly democratic development planning. This is the view of the masses, not the corporates. On which side are the government and political parties? They can't sit on the fence when farms are burning.
(Medha Patkar is a social activist and founder of Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People's Movements.)
Highlights of the Bill
The Bill provides for land acquisition as well as rehabilitation and resettlement. It replaces the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
The process for land acquisition involves a Social Impact Assessment survey, preliminary notification stating the intent for acquisition, a declaration of acquisition, and compensation to be given by a certain time. All acquisitions require rehabilitation and resettlement to be provided to the people affected by the acquisition.
Compensation for the owners of the acquired land shall be four times the market value in case of rural areas and twice in case of urban areas.
In case of acquisition of land for use by private companies or public private partnerships, consent of 80 per cent of the displaced people will be required. Purchase of large pieces of land by private companies will require provision of rehabilitation and resettlement.
The provisions of this Bill shall not apply to acquisitions under 16 existing legislations including the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Railways Act, 1989, etc.
Key Issues and Analysis
It is not clear whether Parliament has jurisdiction to impose rehabilitation and resettlement requirements on private purchase of agricultural land.
The requirement of a Social Impact Assessment for every acquisition without a minimum thresholdmay delay the implementation of certain government programmes.
Projects involving land acquisition and undertaken by private companies or public private partnerships require the consent of 80 per cent of the people affected. However, no such consent is required in case of PSUs.
The market value is based on recent reported transactions. This value is doubled in rural areas to arrive at the compensation amount. This method may not lead to an accurate adjustment for the possible underreporting of prices in land transactions.
The government can temporarily acquire land for a maximum period of three years. There is no provision for rehabilitation and resettlement in such cases.
A Critique Of Land Acquisition Bill 2011
30 August, 2011
A note on Draft Land Acquisition and Resettlement & Rehabilitation Bill 2011
Dr. Jairam Ramesh in his forward to the Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement bill 2011 makes no attempt to hide the obvious priority of the state to use land for industrialization and urbanization than for agriculture purposes. The need for balance is cited as one reason for the formulation of a new law. But the mentioned balance is not between the need for ecological or food security and the need for industrialization which would have been a more ideal position.
The preamble to the Bill says 'A Draft Bill to balance the need for facilitating land acquisition for industrialisation, development of essential infrastructure facilities and urbanisation, while at the same time to meaningfully address the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired'. While the ultimate end of land use here is specified as a matter of public purpose the present function of the land as meeting the public purpose of food security is diluted to highlight it merely as a social concern of the farmers. The issue is dealt as a case that can be solved through monetary compensation. Only the social security aspect of the farmers is focused here, though not completely, while the ecological and food security aspects remain in the dark.
The preamble also claims that the draft bill aims to mitigate the adverse impacts on habitats and is sensitive to the natural resource base. But the claim is not reflected in the clauses that follow. It also speaks about ensuring a humane, participatory, informed, consultative and transparent process of land acquisition and the realization of a stage in which the affected persons become partners in development. It is true that the draft policy does have indications of being more humane, participatory, consultative and transparent compared to the existing law. The issues raised here is to highlight how much more humane, participatory, consultative and transparent it can aspire to be. While appreciating the concept of partnership in development, the note also attempts to highlight the nature of development envisaged by the policy makers and the extent of partnership offered to the stakeholders concerned.
Many media reports and statements of the political leaders appreciate the new draft saying it seeks 80% consent of the project affected before acquisition, provision of resettlement and rehabilitation to the direct and indirect evictees with several benefits, twice and six times the market price respectively in urban and rural areas, special allowances for the Scheduled Tribes, refrain from acquiring any irrigated multi-crop land etc. They are true to an extent, but does not embody the whole truth. The present write-up aims to throw light into the partial truths which are highlighted as the major features of the new policy while explaining the inner dynamics of a complex process like land acquisition. It also seeks to see how the state tends to withdraw its power in some areas while exerting more power in certain aspects. The contradiction here is that power is not exerted where it is required but in those spaces which makes the state more authoritative.
The attempt made in this note is to assess the draft LAA&RR Bill in the context of research experience on the land acquisition processes for industrial and infrastructure projects in Kerala. The examples of two land acquisition cases in Kerala are cited to substantiate the arguments but the points raised are more or less applicable in the national level as well. The cases are given only to show how a uniform policy without considering regional peculiarities can affect a state in particular. One of the cases referred to is the land acquisition for Rail and Road connectivity to Vallarpadam Container Terminal Project in Cochin and other is the land acquisition taking place now for an Industrial Park for KINFRA in the northern part of the Ernakulam District. Both acquisition deal with eviction of settlements and conversion of agricultural wetlands and have met with people's struggles against acquisition and for proper compensation for the land being acquired.
Positive elements of the Draft policy at a glance
• Drive towards a national law to provide for the resettlement, rehabilitation and compensation towards loss of livelihoods
• Combining R&R and Land acquisition laws than treating them separately as different entities
• Public purpose once stated cannot be changed in the case of private companies
• Urgency clause initiated only for strategic purposes and cases of natural calamity and in 'rarest of rare' instances which is a good attempt though the term still appears to be vague
• Offer of various resettlement and rehabilitation benefits and monetary compensation for the land lost
• The policy advocates that about 25 infrastructural amenities should be provided in the resettlement area which include Schools and playgrounds, Health Centres, Roads, electric connections and drainage, Irrigation and transportation facilities, Sanitation facilities, Assured sources of safe drinking water for each family and cattle, Anganwady, Places of worship and burial and/or cremation ground, Fair price shops and seed-cum-fertilizer storage facilities, Grazing land, One community centre for every 100 families etc
• Compliance with laws like The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, Land Transfer Regulations in Schedule V Areas which ensure that the local Panchayat and the Tribal population have their say in matters regarding land acquisition. The only question is whether the Grama Panchayats in general areas will have a stake in the land acquisition process.
• Formation of LA&RR Dispute settlement authority in the National and state level; Formation of State Commissioner for RR and RR committee at the project level – The institutional setup highlights the increased significance of RR
• Return of land to original owner if not used in 5 years for the purpose for which it is acquired with one-fourth of the award amount for the land acquired
• The questions sought in the SIA like, whether extent of land proposed for acquisition is the absolute bare-minimum extent needed for the project; whether less or non-displacing alternatives not technically or geographically available significant in the process of land acquisition
• Multidisciplinary expert group to assess the SIA and public purpose, consisting of two non-official social scientists, two experts on rehabilitation and a technical expert related to the project
• Collector of the district, where the acquisition of land is proposed, should explore the possibilities of utilising waste, degraded, barren lands and that the agricultural land, especially land under assured irrigation is being acquired only as a last resort
• No notification shall be issued unless the concerned Gram Sabha at the village level and equivalent forum in Urban Local Bodies, as the case may be, or Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule Areas have been consulted in all cases of land acquisition
• If a Notification is not issued within six months from the date of appraisal of the Social Impact Assessment report by the Expert Committee then the same shall be deemed to have lapsed and a fresh Social Impact Assessment will have to be undertaken
• Acquisition would not be done in part of the house or building if owner desires that the whole of the building is acquired.
Defining public purpose
The ambiguity of the term 'public purpose' continues to exist in the present draft policy. Or rather it is exactly this ambiguity which is made use of by the State as a weapon to justify any act of land acquisition. The following categories are considered as public purpose – Strategic purposes, Infrastructure and Industry, Land acquired for R&R purposes, Development of village or urban sites for residential, health and education purposes, Land for private companies for public purpose and needs arising from natural calamities. Out of this, categories like Infrastructure and Industry and land for private companies for public purpose can be really misused. These are often passed off as public purpose initiatives by offering employment opportunities to the locals and highlighting regional development. But cases like Cochin International Airport Ltd with very low state Government share, where Golf course and multiplexes are being built in the agricultural land acquired in the name of the airport and the Smart City in Cochin (IT park) where only 50 % of acquired land need to be used for industrial purposes show how land acquired in the name of public purpose and with public money is exploited for private interests. In the present ambit anything and everything can be defined as public purpose and it is very much possible that private firms would make undue gain out of the situation.
Further acquisition for public purpose doesn't address any kind of public concern for environmental imbalance arising out of the process. The Vallarpadam land acquisition for rail and road connectivity saw the conversion of a good extent of wetlands, paddy fields, river and backwater in the name of public purpose. The KINFRA acquisition also envisages the taking over for public purpose, predominantly wetlands which are significant in ecological and agricultural terms. Also land acquisition for R&R is defined as public purpose. What is not mentioned is whether the land acquired and converted in the name of public purpose may defy the same public by destroying the ecological security of the region. A classic example is the rehabilitation plots provided to the Vallarpadam rail and road evictees. All the rehabilitation plots allotted to the evictees were portions of river, backwater, wetlands and paddy fields which fall in the Coastal Regulation Zone and were developed through reclamation using loads of laterite soil.
Also the public purpose cited while Government acquires the land can be changed if required. This could be misused for meeting private interests later if there is no integrated departmental monitoring system to assess the utilization of land.
People's consent for acquisition
The draft bill states that the land acquisition can take place only if 80 % of the project affected families give consent to the proposed acquisition. Though it is an appreciable and revolutionary decision if implemented genuinely, fact is that this is applicable only for those acquisitions where land is being acquired for private companies for immediate use or end use. The consent of the project affected families doesn't count when Government acquires land for its own use, hold and control. This decision is in complete negation of the people's right to informed consent when the situation is that majority of the land acquisitions still take place for state sponsored projects, especially in Kerala.
Another dangerous argument that is put forward by the Rural Development Minister in his forward is that 'The issue of who acquires land is less important than the process of land acquisition, compensation for land acquired and the R&R process, package and conditions'. It is specifically mentioned in the note that private companies can directly buy land from farmers and others. R&R package is offered to the people whose lands are bought by the private firms with the partial support of the state or if hundred or more acres are acquired. But the package is not mandatory in those cases where land is directly purchased by private firms and if the extent of land fall below 100 acres. How the consent of the people is gained by the private firms in such cases is highly debatable. Also it conveniently forgets the sub-transactions that may happen in the locale in connection with the development project that is coming in, the consequent rocketing of prices and the resultant land inequality that may ensue in the area. The Kadamakkudy and Mulavukad villages coming under the road connectivity for Vallarpadam project saw many of its local farmers selling off wetlands at throw away prices to big private firms even before the project notification came in. They were lured by the quick money which was high when compared to the market prices at that time but was negligible when compared to the prices after the project initiation. They were in a way forced to sell their land out of ignorance or sudden family needs like marriage or health treatment. Now bulk of the land in these villages is vested with outsiders than the locals. Also, the draft policy keeps silent about a situation in which less than 100 acres is acquired by a private firm, but which may affect more than 100 families. This is not an exaggeration in the context of Kerala which is densely populated. How will the state know the consent of these people to such an acquisition? Are they being coerced into selling their land out of want or ignorance? Are the private firms using force by any means? How is the land price fixed? Are they able to purchase another piece of land with the money they get? Does the land which is being sold have ecological and productive use for the society? Who will monitor those aspects? Though it may be argued that the people are vested with the selling power, it is not mandatory that they use it for their own benefit always due to financial and social pressures.
The draft bill also speaks about the various combinations that can be worked out in state and private land acquisitions but remains silent about the variations in compensation that may come up even within the same district when different private and public agencies are involved in acquiring the land. The results could be further confusion and conflicts in the land acquisition process in the region and instead of smoothening it as envisaged by the policy.
The procedural errors
The draft policy mandates that Social Impact Assessment should be done by the appropriate Government in the Pre-notification stage and should be examined by independent multi-disciplinary expert group. Also the legitimacy of the 'public purpose' and the SIA have to be approved by the Government approved committee. The R&R scheme has to be finalized within 6 months of the preliminary notification. But public hearing comes only in the Notification stage after Preliminary notification is published. After which the Draft Declaration and R&R scheme is published and Awards given. Though the process do have positive elements like checking the legitimacy of the public purpose given and conducting the SIA, it would no less terminate or reduce the issues that is generated during a land acquisition process today.
The main flaw in the process is the reduction of the concept of land to a social entity devoid of its ecological and productive properties. Though the draft says that the environmental costs, benefits and impacts are to be included in the report the focus of the SIA as detailed in the policy has its focus on socio-economic and institutional impacts. The draft says that the SIA report will be made available when EIA is conducted in a later stage. What calls for is a multi-impact assessment, including environmental impacts, food security impacts, livelihood impacts, institutional impacts and other social impacts in the context of large scale acquisition of agricultural lands, wetlands and forest lands happening in the country. The significance of Environment impact assessment before acquiring a wetland in Kerala is not negligible considering the aspects of water conservation, food security and ecological balance. But as per the present laws of the state, EIA is not mandatory before land acquisition and need to be conducted only once the land is acquired and reclaimed and is made fit for industry. The issue here is of reducing a larger ecological concern of wetland destruction to cases of air and water pollution that any industry may bring about. The Pollution Control Board which comes to the scene in a later stage of the play acts merely as a licensing agency for the industry to function.
The appropriate Government has the power to exempt undertaking the SIA study if the project comes under urgency clause under section 30 of the Act and the SIA is mandatory only if the acquisition is for 100 or more acres of land, both of these which question the veracity of the whole idea. In the case of land acquisition for the road connectivity for Vallarpadam, though the extent of land acquired is comparatively less (slightly above 100 acres) the social and environmental impact created by the 15 km road is very high. The road construction saw large scale reclamation of Pokkali lands and backwaters through which it passed. Again the land areas in proximity to the road were subjected to large scale real estate transactions which further increased the reclamation of wetlands in the area. In addition to this is the reclamation of wetlands and paddy fields caused by dumping of piling wastes by the road construction company and further conversion of paddy fields, wetlands and backwaters even for rehabilitation of the evictees under the coordination of the District Administration. Added to this are the socio-environmental issues in the crusher and quarry sites granted exclusively for the Vallarpadam project to private firms. An EIA was done for the NH connectivity to Vallarpadam before acquisition, to be fair, but the rather amusing thing is that the agency which did the EIA was the same one who prepared the Detailed Project Report for the project. No big imagination is needed to assess the genuineness of the report in this case. In par with the Pollution control Board definition of environmental issues, the report highlights just the air and water pollution issues that may arise during the road construction and refrains from detailing the greater issues that may arise in the locale from large scale conversion of wetlands.
Another error is the conduct of the public hearing towards the end of the process, even after the R&R scheme is formulated. Public hearing is the platform where the local people are supposed to get a say towards the acquisition process and present their apprehensions or approval regarding the project. Conducting the hearing towards the end of the process is only a mockery of the people's right to have their voice heard and reduces it to one among the many administrative steps to be completed before LA. Separating the concept of Public Hearing from SIA is in itself a procedural error. The draft policy states that any person affected by the preliminary notification can ' object to the extent and choice of land proposed to be acquired, justification offered for public purpose, the findings of the Social Impact Assessment report ' which raises questions on the extent of participation of the people in the formulation of the SIA report. How far the dissent at this stage can stand up against any forcible acquisition is arguable since the draft policy states that 'the decision of the Appropriate Government on the objections shall be final'.
Another issue is that even in the new draft policy the state is not bound to transfer the RR benefits and compensation to the evictees before the land is taken over. It is written that the every family covered under the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Award of the Collector shall be given family wise proceedings indicating
'( a) Rehabilitation and Resettlement amount payable to the family and the bank account number of the person to which the Rehabilitation and Resettlement award amount is to be transferred
(b) Particulars of house site and house to be allotted, in case of displaced families
(c) Particulars of Land allotted to the displaced families
(d) Particulars of one time subsistence allowance, transportation allowance in case of
displaced families etc…. ' which means that only a note of promise is given and not the actual benefits before possession. The power to take possession is vested with the Collector upon ensuring ' full payment of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements are paid or tendered to the entitled persons within a period of three months for the compensation and a period of six months for the rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements commencing from the date of the award under section 18' . This indicates that the ongoing story of eviction without resettlement and compensation will continue to happen. Further the passing of Award need not be done in cases of Urgency in which the Government can take possession within 15 days of the notification under Section 9, though it is said that the Collector shall pay up to 80% of the compensation before taking over, which is again not mandatory. The cases of urgency is restricted to the 'minimum area required for the defense of India or national security or for any emergencies arising out of natural calamities' and is specially mentioned that it should be applied only in 'rarest of rare' cases. Also in cases of urgency it is not mandatory that the SIA and evaluation of public purpose is done.
Shortcomings in the provision of resettlement and rehabilitation
The draft policy mentions that the provision of resettlement and rehabilitation will apply only when '1. Private companies buy land, equal to or more than 100 acres, on their own; 2. Private company approaches Government for partial acquisition for public purpose'. While it is a good attempt to ensure R&R to people in the case of large scale evictions, the application of a standard norm across the country in terms of extent of land rather than the density of population can be a risky affair.
In a state like Kerala which is densely populated, acquisition of even 10 acres of land may lead to the eviction of a considerable number of families. To cite an example when around 14 acres of land was acquired for the rail connectivity to the Vallarpadam Terminal Project in Cochin 143 families were evicted. Similarly acquisition of about 108 acres of land across 7 villages (only slightly higher than 100 acres) for the road connectivity to Vallarpadam saw the eviction of 326 families. In this context offering resettlement and rehabilitation benefits only if 100 acres of land or more is bought can be disastrous to the people affected. Also it is a probability that two or more private entities may come together and buy land separately keeping the land ceiling of 100 acres intact and use it finally for the same project. There is ambiguity regarding the R&R of the people evicted in this situation. Further there is no mention of additional acquisitions which is usual in the case of development projects where the notification for acquisition is issued in different stages as the work progress. The cumulative increase in the acreage and the resultant eviction is out of the R&R loop. Even in the case of the NH connectivity to Vallarpadam the families coming under additional acquisition was denied the rehabilitation benefits offered to the families in the first notification inspite of the High Court order that all the evictees were eligible for rehabilitation.
There is no offer for replacement land in the new draft policy also though it is mentioned that if house is lost, a constructed house of plinth area of 150 sq mts of house site in rural areas or 50 sq mts plinth area in urban areas would be given. Converted to cents the extent of land coming in the plinth area offered is just around 3.70 cents and 1.23 cents respectively in rural and urban areas which is quite negligible. If the family opts out of the benefit of a constructed house they will be offered an amount not less than 1.5 lakhs. The said benefit will only lead to the increase in number of resettlement colonies and not independent land for the evictee which is a rightful demand. The gravity of this issue will become clear only when the nuclear families coming within the evictee family are also taken into consideration. It is not clear in the draft policy whether nuclear families within the affected family will be provided with the said benefits in the context of the clause that 'no family affected by acquisition shall be given more than one house under the provisions of this Act'. Again the provision of infrastructural amenities in the resettlement area is mandatory only if more than hundred families are displaced which is another issue altogether.
Land for land lost is offered only in cases for acquisition for irrigation projects, in which the farmer is offered a minimum of 1 acre in the command area of the project. This is not applicable in the case of acquisition of agricultural for industrial, infrastructural or mining projects which are considerably high in number in the present context. The agricultural land lost in such cases is not counted for. The acquisition of Pokkali land for Vallarpadam or the notification of agricultural land for KINFRA doesn't take into account the agricultural economy of the area and financial security of the farmers residing within. The argument that agriculture is in loss is not valid enough to allow the conversion of all the agricultural lands for industrial and infrastructural purposes.
Only those belonging to the Scheduled tribes are offered land in every project irrespective of its nature. This suitably negates the rights of others, especially the financially backward classes and the marginalized for land.
Fixing the Compensation
The compensation will be fixed from the average of the sale price for fifty percent of the sale deeds in the preceding 3 years. The market value so calculated will be multiplied by three in rural areas to which the value of assets will be added together which will make the total compensation. A solatium of 100% will be added to this. In effect the compensation in rural areas will become six times the calculated market value and in cities twice the market value. While the calculation seem to be appreciable it can be misleading since the price quoted in the sale deeds are most often low to evade the stamp duty during the transactions. The issue is said to be addressed to an extent by the Fair Pricing of land in all the districts in Kerala and the reduction of stamp duty, surcharge and registration fee under the Kerala Stamp (Amendment) Bill, 2010. The reduction of the rates is from 15.5% to 11% in Corporation areas; in Municipality / Township / Cantonment areas from 14.5% to 10%; and in Grama Panchayath from 12% to 9%. But even this need not ensure the real quote of price during transactions. Also it falls short of assessing the speculative price rise with an impending development project in the locality. As per the draft policy the Award needs to be made only within two years from the date of publication of the declaration under Section 9. Adding the 3 year period, the transactions of which are considered to fix the market price of the land for compensation, to the two year period that the Government takes to pass the Award, the almost five year gap that comes in can be crucial in increasing the market price of the land. The rocketing of prices at the initiation of a development project in the area also needs to be considered in this situation. Added to this is the time gap between the publication of notification and distribution of the Award due to red tapism, conflicts regarding land price fixing and delays in court procedures. Also there is tax deduction from the compensation money which is reimbursed on application but the delay in receiving the money back leave the people with relatively less funds to invest in another plot or house.
The result is that people are most often unable to buy another piece of land of the same extent within the same locality at the time of eviction. In the case of Vallarpadam road project the three year gap between the time of land acquisition notification (2005) and handing over of compensation money (2008) saw a rocketing of land price in the villages in speculation of the National Highway coming up and other possibilities of development initiatives. Many affected were devoid of the choice to buy land in their own neighbourhood with the compensation money received. Many had to move out of their villages or the district to purchase own plot of land at prices they can afford.
A subsistence allowance at Rs 3000 per month per family for 12 months and Rs 2000 per month per family as annuity for 20 years with approximate index for inflation is offered as part of the rehabilitation package. Also upon every transfer of land within 10 years of acquisition, 20% of the appreciated value will be offered to the land owner in proportion to their land acquired. While all these look laudable the allowances look meek in those cases where subsistence of the people is entirely based on the land being acquired. For someone whose livelihood entirely depend on farming the loss of land could be disastrous if the person is unable to purchase another farming area with the compensation received. In large scale land acquisitions an entire stretch of land will be acquired and the affected will be left with the choice to go to distant places for purchasing land away from their familiar conditions. Even attempts to buy land in the surrounding areas can be futile with the rocketing of prices due to the upcoming project. Large scale conversion of cultivable lands can affect the agricultural economy of the area and it would be difficult to bring back the same balance that existed as before. Switching to other jobs and a complete changeover of livelihood will be the only option left in such cases. Also it is not clear which categories of people will be provided with subsistence allowance and Annuities, that whether a farmer losing 1 acre productive land will be treated in par with someone who lose 3-5 cents of land with just housing as the asset for the same.
Other offers like Rs 50,000 for transportation, reserving 20% of the developed land for the evictees if acquired for urbanization, employment for one member per family or payment of 2 lakhs, whenever-possible offer of share up to 25% of the compensation amount are all beneficial to the evictees if the mentioned benefits are transferred to the eligible with proper coordination.
Similar is the case of people who loss livelihoods and the landless who are offered
• Subsistence allowance at Rs. 3000 per month per family for 12 months
• Rs 2000 per month per family as annuity for 20 years, with appropriate index for inflation
• If home-less, a constructed house (plinth area) on 150 sqmts of house site in rural areas or 50 sqmts in urban area, provided free of cost
• A one-time 'Resettlement Allowance' of Rs 50,000
• Rs 50,000 for transportation
• Mandatory employment for one member per affected family or 2 lakh rupees
Livelihood losers is a very abstract concept and the process of distributing the benefits can be tough with the possibility that the real beneficiaries are kicked out of benefits and fakers are entertained.
Acquisition of tribal land
Here again only the land and monetary benefits to the evictees are highlighted and the policy stops short of even assessing the nature of land, the extent of land being acquired and the need for the same, especially in a situation when forest lands are being converted in large scale circumventing all the existing laws for forest conservation. The loss is calculated in financial terms and not ecological or cultural terms. The issue is relevant in the context of large scale conversion of forest areas for mining projects and alienation of the tribal community from their livelihood sources in several regions.
The following benefits are offered to the evictees.
• One acre of land to each ST family in every project
• One time financial assistance of Rs 50,000 for ST families
• ST families settled outside the district shall be entitled to an additional 25% R&R benefits (and a onetime payment of Rs 50,000) to which they are entitled in monetary terms
• Payment of one third of the compensation amount at very outset to ST families
• Preference in relocation and resettlement in area in same compact block
• Free land for community and social gatherings
• In case of displacement of 100 or more ST families, a Tribal Displacement Plan is to be prepared:
-Detailing process to be followed for settling land rights and restoring titles on alienated land
-Details of programme for development of alternate fuel, fodder and non-timber forest produce
The benefits listed appear to be appealing in first view, the only concern being to what extent they will be materialized. Especially in the context of Kerala where the landless Tribes and Dalits are still struggling for the plots of land rightfully offered to them. The ceiling of 100 families for the preparation of a Tribal Displacement Plan is again questionable since it may negatively affect those families in cases of small scale evictions, additional acquisitions or acquisition by multiple agencies. Further it is not politically right to treat the tribal community in par with the general community since the population sizes of both groups are not at all comparable.
Acquisition of agricultural land
One thing specifically mentioned in the draft policy is that Government does not envisage acquiring any irrigated multi-crop land at any circumstances. This doesn't address the issue of false reports on the use of land which is often concocted by the concerned departments for justifying the acquisition of land. An example is the acquisition in process for 472 acres in Angamaly region for the Kerala Export Promotion Industrial Park by KINFRA. The Government reports state that majority of the land is lying fallow whereas the land is multi-cropped with paddy, tapioca, plantain, coconut, nutmeg etc. Also there are lands falling in it where paddy is cultivated more than once a year. Also it raises the question regarding the fate of wetlands with single crop cultivation like paddy but is too waterlogged for raising other crops. Even if the land is lying fallow there are existing wetland conservation laws in the state which mandates the conservation of wetlands and transformation of fallow lands back for productive purpose. But the existing state laws can be easily overcome this being a National law with given powers to have 'overriding effect' over other laws. The draft policy states ' The provisions of this Act, shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this law' .
The draft policy mandates that the Appropriate Government shall constitute a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary or officer of equivalent rank, consisting of the Secretaries of the Departments of Finance, Revenue, Rural Development, Social Justice, Tribal Welfare, Panchayati Raj and the concerned Departments and not more than three experts from the relevant fields, to examine proposals for land acquisition. The involvement of the Agricultural department is not specifically mentioned here inspite of the large scale agricultural lands that are notified for acquisition. The Agricultural department in the project, state or National level does not have a say in the acquisition of agricultural lands and conversion for other purposes.
Suppressing the dissent
' Whoever willfully obstructs any person in doing any of the acts authorized by section 9 or section 15, or willfully fills up, destroys, damages or displaces any trench or mark made under section 15, shall, on conviction before a Magistrate, be liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding one month, or to fine not exceeding five hundred rupees, or to both' . Any dissent against the LA process is thus made illegal. This illegality is made use of by the authorities to suppress any dissent against the acquisition, as in the cases of Vallarpadam NH connectivity and KEPIP industrial area where uncalled for swiftness was taken in the decision for issuing the 4(1) notification so that with the notification even a democratic mode of protest hindering the acquisition process will be illegal. The draft policy gives space for dissent but only at the prescribed venue and time as decided by the state. It is like a play where all actors are given the chance to perform but the scene and extent of involvement are decided upon by the invisible director who is behind the stage. Here the state takes up the role of the director, decides all the game rules, but gives away the impression that the actors are in charge.
(The author is a Research Scholar with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences)
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