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"Discussion on the consent clause is going on presently on the land acquisition bill in the entire country. There may be various opinions on the consent clause.... The compensation which is presently there in the law, is adequate compensation. The farmer will get four times more than what is the price of the land or the price at which it is being brought," Javadekar said during an event.
He said that in addition, the farmer will also get back 20 per cent developed land.
Elaborating on the issue, Javadekar said that in the 1960s after a farmer's agitation in Maharashtra, the formula of giving back 12.5 per cent developed land to the farmers was introduced.
"So whatever compensation was given on the basic land, 100 times more than that was given by that 12.5 per cent to the farmers. Here (new bill) 20 per cent of developed land is being given back," Javadekar said.
The bill for amending Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2014 has been approved by the Lok Sabha but could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha as the NDA government is short of numbers in the Upper House.
The Opposition has termed the ordinance as "anti-farmer" and accused the BJP government of pushing it forcibly without holding any discussions.
"Farmers will be greatly benefited by it. Each acre will be given Rs 2000 per month as annuity for 30 years. One person in the family will be get job. So the farmer will get these huge four to five benefits and it is an adequate compensation," Javadekar said.
He noted that there will always be two opinions on the issue of consent.
"When an dam for irrigation comes up, the land of 100 people goes but 10,000 people get benefited. It is a sacrifice of 100 people. There was a rule which was introduced in Maharashtra that not only compensation, the affected people should get land at that place which will be benefited by the particular dam.
"But if you ask those 100 people, who will say that come and destroy my house and make a dam. None will say. So on consent there maybe be different opinions," he said.
The 2013 Act had called for mandatory Social Impact Assessment and consent of 80 per cent of affected families in land acquisition for private companies and 70 per cent of affected families in land acquisition for public-private partnership projects.
The NDA government had expanded the list of projects exempted from these two requirements.
Land Acquisition Bill–A tug of war between reactionary and progressive forces.
There has been a lot of talk and hype about Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015. The long name is rather short when compared to the length of never ending political discussions it has generated. Misconceptions spread by opposition parties on the intentions of government have forced all the noble intentions to be reflected on the nomenclature of the bill itself, leading to such a lengthened name. A renowned journalist has suggested, rightly so, that bill be renamed as Land and Landless Economic Regeneration Bill as reflective of true intentions.
At its height things came to such a pass that there were reports of cabinet deciding not to pursue this controversial bill. However, it was too difficult to drop the bill, inextricably intertwined as it is with the development agenda of the government and its poll promise of jobs creation. All these have led to too much confusion among the target group i.e. the farmers. Prime Minister Modi has been successful in developing rapport with the farmers through radio programme his Man ki Baat. Enthused by its success ruling party has gone one step ahead deciding to confront the opposition squarely by taking the issue to the people.
The bill, to be taken in Rajya Sabha as Parliament convenes later this month to wind up the budget session, has already taken lots of hammer. Legislatively speaking the recent ordinance has been diluted considerably enough through incorporation of nine amendments. Even outside the parliament, Anna's agitation aided with Kishan rally by congress put pressure .The ensuing parliamentary session will decide whether the bill is passed or not. Passage will imply victory of the progressive forces over the obscurantist forces. Fall of the bill will imply that it is not the government but the youth, farmers, poor and everybody who have lost.
Opposition to the bill is not without reason though. People point out those earlier land acquisitions did not take care of the interests of farmers as compensation was not paid. It's alleged that people displaced by Bhakra dam or Hirakud dam have not been rehabilitated so far. Same thing is true of many multi-purpose river projects undertaken with enthusiasm during the early decades of independence. It is also true that land taken away for projects have not been utilised for the purpose within time frame. It's irony of history that the party which presided over all these predicaments of the nation is now shouting hoarse about land rights. All along the devil resided in details i.e. proper implementation of rehabilitation and compensation issues. Given the problems, should nation throw the baby with the bathwater? The land bill should be adopted, albeit with all the precautions, such as to ensure compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement in a time bound manner.
Those opposing the bill may or may not qualify as pro-poor, but definitely as anti-development. Lack of smooth land acquisition procedures in fact perpetuates, deepens poverty. So no matter what the so called protectors of farmers' rights aver, they block growth and job creation. Development agenda during last decade has unfortunately been hostage to political divisiveness of coalition politics, corruption, and stagnation. Economy floundered due to lack of leadership, vision, decisiveness and direction. Now is the opportune time to come out of the glut.
Should we allow the Duryodhans to dictate the course of history? It is unfortunate that the divisive agenda of some parties has tried to put farmers and corporate at two opposite ends of the development divide. Let's realise that synergy, not conflict, is need of the hour.
Long back in history individuals gave up some rights to the state for their betterment. State utilized those rights for welfare of citizens. Gradually social security assumed significance. The sphere of state activities further expanded from police state to a welfare state. Providing jobs became the duties of the state. Now state requires more rights surrendered by people, of course with adequate compensation and with their consent. Government needs land for roads, electricity, and infrastructure and defence projects. Let not be shy that manufacturing facility also need land. Helping corporate to set up industries does not tantamount to being pro-corporate, rather it implies being pro-people. After all it is through manufacturing and collateral services, jobs will be created to eventually boost the economy. Once on the path of welfare, modern state can never nor should revert back to police state. Those opposing the bill have stifled economy for decades and trying to hold on to what they perceive as the last chance to stay politically relevant. The ruling dispensation should better strive hard to tolerate this last death bite on its road to Congresss-mukt Bharat.
India currently stands at the cross roads of history as the state, driven by missionary zeal, is impatient to do something for the poor. Staunch obstructionist political parties, no matter how insistent they are, should not be allowed to stand in the way. India on the march should not tolerate obscurantist political forces who, devoid of any inclusive developmental perspective, are trying to obstruct and derail the chariot of progress for their own political survival.
Team ET Magazine
This Land is Our Land
Tribals in minerals-rich Jharkhand, who have been busy keeping at bay corporates and their proposed multi-billion dollar projects over the past decade, hunker down for another battle to ring-fence their land
Rajiv Singh l Turundu, Jharkhand
August 14, 2008, 11.30 pm: The mood is up beat, the occasion historic; and the planning majestic. Over 3,000 people in this sleepy village come together, some shouting slogans, others crooning patriotic songs and still others making feverish preparations for the next day celebrations. Quite a few of them, mostly women, weep intermittently through the night, unable to control their emotions.
For the first time, the villagers of Turundu, some 77 km from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, is going to celebrate Independence Day. On Friday morning of August 15, 2008, the national flag is unfurled in the village ground.The spirited villagers in the Gumla district of Jharkhand sing the national anthem and congratulate each other.
They also gear up for one final battle, raising the slogan ladai vabu, jithar vabu (will fight, will win).
The victory came two years later in 2010. The villagers had succeeded in forcing the world's largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal out of Khunti Gumla, where it was planning to put up a 12 million tonne steel factory.
"They had steel, but we had nerves of steel," says Dayamani Barla, the plucky tribal woman activist who led the agitation against the world's biggest steel maker. "For us, the year of Independence was not 1947 but 2008 when we resolved to fight against the move to capture our land," she says.
On October 8, 2005, ArcelorMittal (then Mittal Steel) had inked a memorandum of underst anding with the Jharkhand government to invest `40,000 crore in setting up the steel-making unit. The land required for the project was a staggering 12,000 hectares. (For perspective, 12,000 hectares is roughly the total area on which 30 million kg of tea is produced in the Annamalai hill range between Tamil Nadu and Kerala) A decade later, the Luxembourg-based steel giant is yet to start operations as it is still scouting for elusive land in the state where it has been forced to change its proposed plant site not once but twice due to stiff resistance from the farming tribal community.
In 2010, it decided to relocate from the Khunti-Gumla area to Bokaro. Frustrated with inordinate delays in acquisition of land in Odisha, it scrapped its $12-billion steel plant in 2013. The company had inked an MoU in 2006 to set up a 12-million tonne steel plant in four phases in Keonjhar.
However, the LN Mittal promoted steel maker is still hanging on to its Jharkhand dream. In February this year, Sanjay Sharma, the company's chief executive officer for India and China, met Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das and renewed ArcelorMittal's commitment to setting up a greenfield plant in the state. Das told ET Magazine: "Jharkhand needs investment. I will not only support ArcelorMittal but all other national as well as foreign corporates who want to invest in Jharkhand."
(see "I will Support...").
High Stakes in Mineral-rich State
"Ek inch zameen bhi nahin denge (we won't give even an inch of land)," thunders Barla in Turundu village. The villagers, who had gathered to hear didi , as Barla is fondly called by the villagers, loudly chant Ladai vabu, jithar vabu.
Even as the Modi government's Land Bill appears to be heading towards no man's land across the country with farmers vehemently protesting against its amended avatar, it's in the mineral-rich states of Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh where its fate would be sealed. In fact, battle lines are being drawn in Jharkhand, India's richest state in terms of mineral resources. And the fight is being spearheaded by Barla who moves from village to village, mobilising hundreds of tribals, sensitising them about the impending threat and educating them about the bill.
Turundu's Raju Lohara is one such villager who is ready to sacrifice his life for didi so that she can stop ArcelorMittal. "Unhone 10 saal intazaar kiya hai lekin zameen nahin mila. 100 saal baad bhi kuch nahin milega (they waited for 10 years but couldn't get land. Even after 100 years they won't get anything)."
As ET Magazine travels to remote, almost inaccessible, villages of Jharkhand, one gets to see many Loharas gearing up for the big fight.
Jabra village, in the Karra tehsil of Khunti district, is no stranger to agitations against land acquisition. Over 100 families in this village were up in arms against the move of the government to acquire land for the construction of a dam in 2010. The villagers thrashed the private contractors and chased them away when they tried to lay the foundation for the dam. Since then, the land has been laying vacant. "Johar [namaste], didi," Lodha Munda, the village headman, greets Barla as we enter Jabra, a nondescript village that still swears by its tribal tradition of warmth in greeting friends as well as strangers. A few women get a small vessel of water, dip a bunch of mango leaves and sprinkle it on the visitors. The guests are then made to wash their hands. The traditional welcome is fol lowed by serving a glass of juice made from crushing fruit from different trees in the jungle.
Munda, wearing an Aam Aad mi Party cap, rushes to get a couple of plastic chairs. " Ab Aam Aadmi kahan hai, sirf topi hai [Now there is only a cap but no Aam Aadmi Party]," he quips, referring to the Lok Sab ha polls during last May which Barla, contesting from AAP, lost by a heavy margin.
As the word spreads about Barla's visit, people quickly as semble around a big tree in the centre of the village. "Zameen hamari pehchaan hai (land is our identity)," says Munda, adding that no body can snatch it from them. The govern ment says development can't happen without land, but we want to ask why have we been deprived of electricity, drinking water and roads for over so many decades, he says. "Jindal, Mittal ki jaagir nahin, Jharkhand hamara hai [ Jharkhand is not the property of Jindal and Mittal. It belongs to us]."
It's easy to see why there is widespread anger and resentment in the villages of Jharkhand against the move to acquire land.Hundreds of villages are still living in primitive times. There is no electricity, and places where it miraculously appears, it's so erratic that it doesn't make much of a difference to people's lives. Mosquito-infested wells are by and large the only means of drinking water. At most places, the water is so dirty that it resembles the polluted-Yamuna water of Delhi. A dispensary, which doesn't have basic medical equipment, forget doctors and trained nurses, is a cruel joke in the name of healthcare.
The only means of livelihood is the agricultural land, which is now under the radar of the government for development purposes; and a paltry sub `200 that the villagers get in the name of minimum wage guarantee. But this too is just for 100 days or so. "The government can't provide them basic amenities but talks about hefty compensation for selling land," says Barla.
Elephant in the Jungle
For tribals, land is a not a commodity to be traded or sold. It's their soul. "You can't remove the soul from the body," says Barla. The ancestral land of the tribals is not just the only source of their livelihood but also an integral part of their culture and identity.
Rajan Topono, the gram pradhan (village head) of Karra Kita Toli, says he was offered `5 crore in 2008 to grant permission to vacate the entire village land for the steel plant. "A dalal [land agent] offered me `5 crore but I refused. Land is my mother. I can't sell it."
Although there is no official record available about the number of people displaced due to acquisition of land, Barla claims that over 80 lakh tribals have been displaced in the state since 1947. "Over 10 lakh were uprooted during the last decade in Jharkhand," she contends.
It doesn't matter to Barla if she is labelled `anti-development' by her detractors. In 2013, the activist led a tribal movement at Nagri, around 15 km from the capital city of Ranchi. At the heart of the issue was 227 acres allotted by the government for the building of campuses for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) and National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Barla fought for the rights of over 150 affected families who claimed to be owners of this fertile stretch of land that the government acquired.The land is still a disputed site.
While Barla may be busy galvanising tribals over the Land Bill across the state, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the main opposition party, has also hardened its stand and sees it as an opportunity to put the BJP-led state government on the back foot. "We are not against development," says Hemant Soren, former chief min ister of Jharkhand. "But we can't tolerate destruction in the name of development."
Soren, who was once a coalition partner of the BJP, says over 10 lakh acres have been acquired in Jharkhand since 1947. He says a false notion has been spread across the country that development can't happen without setting up industries. "ArcelorMittal is like a big elephant trying to enter a narrow lane in Jharkhand," he says, adding that the con sequences of such a move would be disastrous. "The elephant would not only trample upon millions of people it will also destroy the state." Looked upon as messiah of the tribals, Soren threatens to launch a violent agitation across the state if the Land Bill is passed.
Meanwhile, Barla finishes her two-day whirlwind tour of villages and returns to her tea shop at Club Road in Ranchi on Thursday evening. "The fight is for jal, jungle, jameen (water, forest and land)," she says. After finishing her tea and two samosas, she gets ready to go to her office, just a few metres from the tea shop."Welcome to my grand office," she says, bursting into laughter. A small, cramped room with heaps of newspapers stacked against one of the walls is Barla's war zone. A huge portrait of Birsa Munda, the biggest tribal leader of Jharkhand who is revered here, can be seen in the dim light emanating from a 60-watt Philips bulb that hangs from the tin roof of her office.A big picture of her protest march against ArcelorMittal also finds a pride of place on her mud wall.
"This [Land] Bill will not only kill farmers but will also prove fatal for the BJP," she predicts. "Their future is bleak. If they pass the bill, they will be seen procorporate and if they don't, corporates will shun them."
Land Money Can't Buy
The government faces an uphill task in convincing villagers in Raigad to part with their land for a Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project
G Seetharaman l Raigad
It is evident right from the start of our conversation that Chandri Shripad Ubhare is not the one to shy away from a fight. She responds with authority to every question before it is even completed and looks furious at the mention of the possibility of her land in Dhakne village in Raigad district, about 140 km from Mumbai, being acquired for the Dighi Port Industrial Area that is part of the proposed Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). "You can take us, but not our land. If they try to take it forcibly, the women will be the first to stand in their way and we will throw stones at them," says the 60-year-old who grows paddy on her 0.25-acre land with her husband.
Ubhare does not care much for industrial development and jobs in the area, which is the government's pitch to the villagers. "We don't want anything. Just let us do farming.We are happy with whatever little we earn. You can take the project elsewhere," she notes. It is people like her that stand in the way of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the nodal agency for DMIC in the state, acquiring the 5,700 hectares (1 hectare equals 2.47 acres) in 24 villages, with over 50,000 people, in Mangaon and Roha talukas, fertile regions where paddy is the main crop, in Phase I of the project. Raigad district collector Sumant Bhange says another 6,000 hectares will be acquired in Phase II. The original plan was to acquire 25,300 hectares in 78 villages, which has been scaled down thanks to the opposition to the project. The Dighi port is about 50 km from Mangaon and 65 km from Roha.
DMIC is an ambitious $90-billion project to build 24 industrial cities on both sides of a 1,483-km Dedicated Freight Corridor between Delhi and Mumbai by 2040. It covers six states -Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Seven cities, including the Dighi Port Industrial Area, are expected to be developed as part of Phase I, the deadline for which is 2019. Maharashtra has one other industrial city, near Aurangabad, in Phase I. The central government's financial assistance for each city in Phase I is reportedly `2,500-3,000 crore.
DMICDC, the development corporation responsible for carrying out the project, aims to double the employment potential of each industrial city within seven years of its completion and treble its industrial output within nine years. The government, through its various arms, owns 74% of DMICDC and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation the rest.
It is not only marginal farmers like Ubhare who are against the Dighi Port project, but even farmers like Anandrao Jadhav, whose extended family owns about 150 acres and who personally owns about 30 acres. "We gave our land for highways, canals and railway tracks. We did not have a problem with that but we are not going to give up our land for this project," says the 83-year old resident of Dharanchi wadi village, off National Highway 17, which con nects Mumbai and Goa.
His son Sanjay says though people voted for change in the 2014 general election, the Land Acquisi tion Act, 2013, of the Unit ed Progressive Alliance government had farmers' interest in mind, unlike the ordinance introduced by the Narendra Modi dispensation late last year.
While the 2013 Act called for social impact assessment studies and consent of at least 70% of the people affected by public private partnership (PPP) projects and 80% by private entities, the ordinance did away with those if the land is acquired for any of the following purposes: defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for the poor, industrial corridors where land is acquired within one kilometre of designated railway line or roads, and PPP infrastructure projects where the ownership of the land remains with the government.
Ulka Mahajan, convenor of Sarvahara Jan Andolan, a movement leading the opposition to the Dighi Port project, says the aforementioned list of projects is quite expansive."Moreover, no amount of compensation is enough. Land is not just a commodity, it provides for every generation," she adds. The government is offering `18.4 lakh per acre if a farmer is parting with his land completely for the Dighi Port project, and `13 lakh if he wants to retain 15% of the developed land.Mahajan says a one-time compensation is not of much use to the farmer since the money does not last him beyond a few years. She adds that the government should lease the land instead of buying it, giving landowners long-term financial security. Talleen Kumar, chief executive officer of DMICDC, in an emailed response to ET Magazine's questions, just said MIDC is responsible for making land available for the project. Questions sent to Bhushan Gagrani, CEO of MIDC, remained unanswered.
Bhange says the government has got owners' consent for about 2,200 hectares, while Mahajan says the documents she has accessed put the number at about 1,150 hectares. "Most of the people who have agreed are those who bought the land from farmers after the project was announced. Not even 2% of the locals have given their consent," says Mahajan. To that, Bhange says the government can only seek the consent of landowners whether or not they are locals.
Mahajan says out of the land MIDC has acquired for other projects, 695 hectares has been allotted for industries but not been utilized while 1,246 hectares have not been allotted at all. Bhange refutes that and says there is no such unutilised land and Kumar says DMICDC is not aware of any utilized land in the region.
The villagers, who have participated in protest marches against the project, can count on support from leaders of the Shiv Sena, part of the ruling coalition in both Maharashtra and the Centre. The party has been vocal in its criticism of the ordinance.Anant Geete, a Shiv Sena minister in the Modi cabinet, is the MP from Raigad. The locals can also take heart from the fact a Reliance Industries-promoted special economic zone in Raigad was scrapped in 2011 after only 13% of the requisite land was acquired.
Bhange says the government will not forcibly acquire anyone's land. But, farmer Jadhav is sceptical: "Now they are saying they will not take our land without our consent, but we don't know what will happen later."
Statue of Strife
A 182-metre tall idol of Sardar Patel along with tourism infrastructure proposed in the Narmada district on a 20-acre plot of land has its tillers up in arms
Suman Layak l Kevadiya
Tea sellers in India can have con trasting fortunes. While Narendra Modi who sold tea as a youngster has grown up to become the country's prime minister, Ambalal Tadvi, 40, a tea seller from Gujarat's Narmada district is staring at an uncertain future. His stall and the little bit of farm land will soon be taken up by the Statue of Unity project, a 182-metre tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel along with tourism infrastructure coming up nearby. Ambalal and his daughter Pinki, who run the stall together, will have to find something else to do.
The tea stall lies inside a 20-acre plot that was cordoned off in March 2015. The restrictions imposed in the beginning were removed after the people living there protested. However, there is 24hour police bandobast. The plot has been chosen as the site for the Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan, the convention centre complex that will also have hotels and research facilities. Larsen & Toubro has been awarded the job of building the statue and the complex.
The plot houses, apart from the tea stall and the farm land, a grocery shop, a government hostel and a century-old temple. The land has been used in the recent past as a parking lot for visitors to the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The piece of land and some more in Kevadiya, the village on the right bank of the Narmada river and downstream from the dam, was supposedly acquired in 1961 when Jawaharlal Nehru had laid the foundation stone of the dam. A canal was supposed to pass this way, but the plans changed and it was never built. The land was never taken away and is still cultivated by the landowners and their progeny.
Sanjay Tadvi, 32, recently harvested a crop of tuar (pigeon pea) on his sevenacre plot in this area after the area was cordoned off. He is aware of the new land acquisition bill brought in by the NDA and the 2013 law that was passed by the UPA government. "By that 2013 law, if the canal wasn't built within five years, the land should have been returned to us. So they should have returned the ownership of the land to us in 2013."
He accepts that this may be the last time he has tilled this ancestral land. Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel had laid the foundation stone of the project on October 31, 2014. Sanjay, one of the key figures protesting the acquisition of the land, was detained by the police through the day and released at night without a charge. "When I asked for a copy of the FIR the cops refused and said there would be none as no crime has been committed. Whenever a minister visits, we have to go through this," he says with a shrug.
There is ample reason for the protests, says Sanjay. The government has offered a package to the affected people of land-for-land. That means an equal measure of cultivable land nearby and a plot to build a house."The land is being given to my grandfather. Now my uncles and I have built separate houses here.How are we going to manage with a single housing plot?" The local people have demanded jobs in the dam management authority, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam, as well as commercial plots where they can start shops to benefit from the tourism boom, whenever that happens.
Ambalal says: "Farming yields some crops but my main income is from the tea stall. If they give us land, my own share will be only one acre as we will have to share it with my cousins. I don't see how I will have a livelihood." Sanjay adds: "We have been shown some land. However, we will have to start sowing for the new crop in June or July. Till now no initiative has been taken to register the land." He claims that his shop (selling snacks, soft drinks and some groceries) that he operated from his home did business between `15,000 and `25,000 every month.
While the cultivators and tea sellers are worried, the abodes of gods are not spared of uncertainty either.The Guru Vishwanath Maharaj Samadhi temple, a cluster of four shrines, lies at one corner of the Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan plot. The temple priest Murli Manohar Mishra says: "The government assured me that the temple will be unaffected.However, I know the tourism master plan says even temples or mosques have to be removed."
In March, after the area was cordoned off, efforts to move these families led to conflict, arrests and protests. Around six families (70 people) live within the area. L&T officers at the local camp office near the statue site refused to comment. The district collector and administrator's office lies right in front of the plot. District collector SK Garasia told ET Magazine: "There is a package that the government is offering them: land for land and additional three gunthas [a guntha equals 121 square yards] for a house.If they had shops in their houses, that can't be considered."
No Smooth Transition
However, a legal challenge with a wider ramification has already been mounted. Vadodara-based activists Trupti Shah, 52, her husband Rohit Prajapati, 50, and a group of eight others have approached the Pune bench of the National Green Tribu nal (NGT) against the project. Prajapati says: "The entire project includes the statue, the infrastruc tures like Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan and a second dam, 12 km downstream called Garudeshwar Vihar.This second dam will ensure the area in between it and Sardar Sarovar becomes like a lake, just below the statue, and allows for boating and water sports round the year."
Shah and Prajapati contend that 1.2 lakh square metres of land will be needed for the entire project. "The area needed just for the statue has been pegged at 19,700 square metres to stay under the 20,000 square metres limit for environment and social impact studies. We are asking the NGT to order an environment impact study and social impact studies for the entire project," Shah said. The NGT has set May 8 for hearing the case and has asked for responses from the Gujarat government. Garasia refused to comment on the case before the NGT.
Prajapati and Shah have been known as Narendra Modi-baiters, repeatedly taking on the state governments on environmental issues."The Congress governments were no better. When in power they all behave the same way," says Shah.
Prajapati explains how Kevadiya, being the first village downstream after the Sardar Sarovar Dam, never got any benefits out of it in terms of irrigation; so agriculture is dependent on rains. This explains why people like Sanjay hope to land a job or a commercial plot in lieu of their land. The mood is definitely different when one talks to Naresh Tadvi, a 47-year old veteran of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), who says he has lost all his land and only 18 gunthas are left with him.
At least in Kevadiya the thesis of agriculture being an unviable activity seems to cut some ice. But the transition is proving far from smooth. "Tomorrow, Anandiben will come and I will be detained through the day by the police," says Naresh with a degree of resignation.He is well known -some would say notorious -for leading protests, yet he commands almost unrestricted entry to government offices and claims he has helped the district collector a lot over this issue.
It's been six years since Naresh had quit his job with Indian Oil to join the NBA. Sitting at Ambalal's tea shop Naresh says: "The commercial plots are the key." To survive, Ambalal will have to find a way to sell more tea.
VIEW "Millions of Rural Migrants will Benefit"
The amended Land Bill will help fast-track the land acquisition process for larger public good
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 can arguably be termed as one of the most deliberated and awaited legislations in the country over the last two decades. Its importance was enhanced by the fact that in the period preceding its passage, all the major stakeholders in land acquisition -industry, land owners and landless agrarian class went through a very tense phase, often leading to violent upsurges across the country. Not only did this new Act replace the archaic Land Acquisition Act of 1894 but it also installed rehabilitation & resettlement as an integral component of land acquisition. This was important as equitable participation by industry and the farm community is a prerequisite for economic development.
It was expected that this Act will create millions of jobs, meet the aspirations of farmers, thereby bridging the economic divide and propelling inclusive growth in the country. However, euphoria over this landmark Act was soon replaced by disillusionment as it was realised that the stipulated provisions have made the entire land acquisition process cumbersome beyond reason and costly. Blanket provisions like consent requirements and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for all sorts of projects meant that projects worth thousands of crores of rupees would continue to be stranded on account of hurdles in land acquisition; and that millions of landless people would be deprived of job opportunities and forced to migrate to urban slums to look for livelihood.
Against this backdrop, this government has come out with certain amendments to this Act in the form of an ordinance which exempts certain key areas like affordable housing, rural infrastructure including electrification and social infrastructure projects from the mandatory consent of 70-80% of land owners and SIA. This would help fast-track the land acquisition process in areas of larger public good.
Such exemptions are also applicable for public private partnerships (PPPs) in social infrastructure projects such as educational institutions and hospitals. In a bid to restrict misuse, it is proposed that the ownership of land in such cases would continue to vest with the government. Another major provision in this ordinance is inclusion of all 13 existing central legislations so that landowners are eligible for same increased compensation and rehabilitation & resettlement entitlements. It also grants the right to landowners to move district authorities first for grievance redressal against land acquisition before moving to the respective high courts, thereby empowering them against possible exploitation and offering multiple windows for seeking justice. This ordinance has also upheld the compensation package at four times the market value in rural areas and two times in urban areas; this will go a long way to ensure that landowners and farmers are adequately compensated. CII supports this provision as such landowners and farmers are important stakeholders in the developmental process.
It is crucial to quote the National Sample Survey Organisation report of 2014 which found that 56% of small farmers -those with less than 100 square metres of farmland -earned the majority of their income in the form of wages from an external job and agricultural income was marginal to their household expenses.
Hence, as farmers with small land holdings are compelled to look for other means for livelihood in addition to farming, land acquisition at above-market rates as well as adequate provisions for resettlement and rehabilitation will provide new opportunities to farmers as well as the rural poor who are seeking new jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.There is a growing aspiration within the farm community to move upwards, both in terms of jobs in factories and better livelihood. At the same time, numerous studies have forecasted India's urban population to reach 600 million by 2030; they will require adequate housing, jobs and manufacturing facilities. The amended Land Acquisition Act is expected to benefit millions of rural migrants and help the country urbanise in a planned manner.
Another major provision of the amended Act aims at strengthening the industrial corridors in the country as projects in such corridors too have been granted exemption from mandatory consent and SIA. It has been proposed that the industrial corridors should be built in such a way that they run within a narrow distance with various highways, thereby giving a fillip to the development of the entire rural area in its vicinity -through employment opportunities and enhanced land value.
One may argue that this Act is only in cases where government is approached for land acquisition (in the stated exemptions), either by the private sector or for a PPP project. However, when we take into consideration that the land market in the country is highly distorted and opaque with poor land records and fragmented land holdings, it would be extremely challenging for industry to directly acquire the entire land parcel required for a project. There are numerous examples from across the country where land acquisition for industrial purposes has resulted in positive economic spillovers and enhanced quality of life in its vicinity.
(The author is president, CII)
"Voices of the Displaced Need to be Heard"
Are the proposed amendments to the Land Act a mask facilitating more displacement without proper consultation?
What is a balanced view on the proposed changes to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013? Are critics and protestors right that these amendments are anti-farmers? Or are farmers being misled?
One factor in favour of the land ordinance (which was re-promulgated early this month) is the inclusion of 13 Acts excluded in the December 2013 draft, including some significant ones such as Coal Bearing Areas Act of 1957 and the Atomic Energy Act of 1962. Their exclusion could have made the bill applicable in a relatively small number of cases.
The main question revolves around the five categories of projects being exempted in the new Bill from 70% consent of communities, and from requirement of a Social Impact Assessment, `in the public interest': projects vital to national security; rural infrastructure including electrification; affordable housing and housing for the poor; industrial corridors; and infrastructure projects including ones under PPP where the ownership of land continues to vest with the government.
How many projects will become exempt by these clauses? Some of these key terms could be interpreted very broadly: evoking national security could involve land taken for expanding police outposts, and firing ranges; rural infrastructureelectrification could involve coal mines, affordable housing could easily be expanded to mean housing for the middle class, following the trend in cities of `investments' in second (more affordable) homes in the distant suburbs; and infrastructure projects can include high ways and expressways that may well run through farm land.
Since the main drive for amending LARR Act seems to come from corporate investor pressure to fast-track clearances, aren't farmers right to be suspicious?
The strength of the 2015 Land Bill is its implicit rejection of the colonial-era Land Acquisition Act of 1894, with its concept of preeminent domain. What this means is the colonial claim that the state has the preeminent right to decide what consti tutes `public interest' -a phrase that has served as loophole through which millions of people have been displaced without compensation. At least 50 million people -including about a quarter of the whole scheduled tribe population -have been displaced by big dams, mines, factories, firing ranges since Independence, all in the name of `development'. If the majority of displacement has been of rural communities, the numbers of poor displaced in cities to make way for `property development' is also huge.
The majority of people displaced have suffered a momentous decline in living standards, and till date have never received proper compensation. Jaideep Hardikar's book A Village Awaits Doomsday is just one, human-scale survey of a situation affecting hundreds of thousands of people.Their anger at the neglect and injustice they have received need to be listened to, by businessmen and politicians alike, as a starting point for real development.
The Land Bill promises local control over decision-making through gram sabhas, and the vital principle of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). It promises a process of Social Impact Assessments.These promises have to be maintained. If the amendments are a mask facilitating more displacement without proper consultation, does it deserve to become law? Above all, the voices of displaced people, and of communities threatened with displacement need to be heard. As the prime minister recently said, adivasis can make a momentous contribution to the nation's development. This can only happen if people start to lis ten to their voices and learn from them: their values of sharing resources fairly and safeguarding the biodiversity they have always lived in harmony with offer our best hope for a sustainable future.
Farmers' movements against forced displacement are not `anti-development': they offer models of real democracy and real development based on sharing and safeguarding nature's bounty.
(The author is an anthropologist working with tribals in India)
"Forest Land, Anybody?"
Bald forest land may be a more sensible option than productive farm land in creating land banks for growth
Subba Rao Amarthaluru
While the Modi government has put in place many keystones of the economy, which is reflected in an upgrade of India's credit rating to positive from stable, it still faces loud criticism from a section of India Inc that nothing on the ground has changed yet.The critique implies, inter alia, that it hasn't become any easier to do business and that demand for goods and services still remains muted.
A critical input to promote ease of doing business and oxygenate infrastructure investments, which in turn will propel the demand scenario, is making the requisite land easily available for infra projects and industry at an affordable cost.Over the last few years, land acquisition has become a high-decibel issue, primarily because of the choice of the source the land. Successive governments have been faultily targeting farm land to give a leg up to infrastructure projects. In a country where more than half of voters depend on agriculture for livelihood, farm land is not just an economic asset but also a political weapon to win the kisan vote bank. Disruptive and deafening street politics is threatening to frustrate the legisla tive move to acquire farm land by flaring up emotions. Selfish vote-bank political battles could derail the Land Bill and thereby cripple India's growth potential. But is farm land the only source of a land bank for growth, or do more efficient alternatives exist?
Old problems need new age solutions. One alternative to farm land could be the huge bald tracts of land in the notified forest areas, where there is little or no forest. Forest Survey of India's 2013 biannual State of Forest Report states that about 2.95 lakh sq km of forest land has thin forest cover from 10% to 40% canopy; further, about 41,000 sq km of `scrub area' has no forest.
The area that is needed to create 100 manufacturing hubs of 1,000 sq km each is 1 lakh sq km of land, which can be easily sourced from open forest and scrub areas. Protecting productive farm land is more important for food security than protecting bald forest lands. Numerous government-owned mega manufacturing hubs can be created on a long-term lease basis across the country with a comprehensive ecosystem. Make In India will get nirvanic sustenance; our unliveable and inefficient cities will slowly get decongested, improving their productivity. Fifth-gear growth will be the positive outcome of this new order.
The green champions can be convinced with satellite images and inspections. Better afforestation is possible by mandating a green cover of 25% in these manufacturing hubs. A society's success depends on constant balancing and rebalancing of the realities with the requirements.
(The author is Group CFO, RPG Enterprises.
Views expressed are personal)
KP Narayana Kumar
The suicides that are being reported from farms across the country clearly indicate that these schemes have not found enough takers.
Worse, even in cases where the farmer has signed up for a policy, he may not be eligible to make a claim when he is badly hit on account of loan defaults.
Research done by ET Magazine suggests two major flaws apart from several lesser evils. The two biggest problems with the design of these schemes is that, first, even extremely poor farmers are expected to pay the premium. Second, if the farmer gets trapped in a cycle of debt and defaults on his agricultural loan -to which his crop insurance scheme is linked -his pol Ha icy becomes inoperative. Thousands of farmers who have opened insurance plans through the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme for instance find they cannot claim insurance because of unpaid dues on their bank loan.
Earlier in the week, ET reported that home minister Rajnath Singh is keen to fast-track the much-proposed National Crop Income Insurance scheme, which will merge all farm-related insurance schemes and provide cover for production-related risks and price volatility.
As India appears headed for yet another below-par monsoon, the home minister's initiative is doubtless welcome, but if the new schemes have to be effective, the government may need to plug some basic flaws, suggest experts ET Magazine spoke to.
Food For Thought
That farmers have to pay the premium has met with a backlash in multiple states with several farmer associations even writing to insurance companies to not debit the insurance premium. Given that the banks are under pressure to meet targets for the KCC, they decide to waive off the premium component.
According to a senior official with a public sector insurance company, crop insurance schemes were linked to farm loans to provide comprehensive coverage. But since the premium has to be paid by the farmers, they prefer to do away with the insurance component.
"If you tell the farmer that the crop insurance will stop if you default on loan repayments, how is this helping him during a crisis?
This is important, given that the state decided to set up crop insurance schemes not only to help the farmer but also from a food security perspective. Giving aid to small farmers in terms of financial stability is one way of ensuring food security," says the officer.
The Big Divide
These schemes have also broadly cleaved India into two parts with one set of states, which are under-penetrated , reporting lack of awareness among farmers about insurance even as multiple frauds are being reported from the second set of states that have better coverage.
Talking to various experts who have implemented these schemes on the ground, ET Magazine got a sense of the huge divide. An official who has worked on the field in several north Indian states for over two decades said some states that had an early lead in setting up cooperative banks and other institutions were able to implement crop insurance schemes faster. These states also have had to repeatedly deal with drought, cyclones and other calamities. However, strong "local networks" of farmers, bank officials and agriculture department officials have cornered all these schemes by perpetrating various frauds.
The states where crop insurance frauds are being reported continuously include Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. According to this official, farmers in some districts in these states pay off officials handling the yield assessment.
"In Mehsana in Gujarat, there was a case where the farmers had collected claims which suggested the groundnut yield was 32 quintals per acre. But when the state government did a re-check, they found the actual yield was around 450 quintals," said this official."There are districts in the country where the farmers only harvest insurance claims."
The districts that report crop insurance frauds regularly include Dharwad and Haveri in Karnataka, Sivaganga and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, Aurangabad and Jalgaon in Maharashtra, the Saurashtra region of Gujarat and the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh.
Political influence has also played a role in the acceptance of multiple claims over the same plot of land, which is the most common form of fraud. "If you have influence, you can get the bank manager to sanction multiple loans and crop insurance policies over the same plot under the names of various members of the family. This is almost the norm in these districts," says the official.
In Maharashtra, officials say, farmers take up insurance only for seasons when they know they would suffer bigger losses. They are able to do so because a high court order has made crop insurance a strictly voluntary component of farm loans. There is also an ample time lag between the last date for acceptance of insurance policy applications and the time for assessing the monsoon pattern.
Officials say this affects their business case because the premium collected in the state is extremely low when compared to the claims.
Lack of Awareness
Even as the insurance company struggles to deal with fraudulent claims in these states, there exists another set of states where the coverage is poor and the farmers have little awareness. These states are led by Punjab which is yet to sign up for any crop insurance policy. Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are some of the other states that have a poor record of getting crop insurance schemes implemented.
When ET Magazine visited Bundelkhand to take stock of the condition of farmers after unseasonal rain and hailstorm destroyed crops across India, more than 20 farmers said that although they did pay premium for a couple of years, they have never been able to claim insurance money despite suffering losses year after year.
An officer with a local bank that implements the KCC scheme said the farmers were not aware of how the insurance schemes worked.Most of them, for instance, did not know that the policy becomes inoperative if they default on payments. "The farmers do not know anything about the guidelines. The government has also not made any effort to make them aware. This is why these schemes are not too effective," the bank manager said.
An official with the government insurance company said the average small farmer in the country is estimated to earn around `1,700 per month and a 10% insurance premium -`170 per bi-annual season -is a substantial amount for him.
Experts ET Magazine spoke to said India needs to legislate on crop insurance. A crop insurance expert suggested five broad points for an effective legislation. Firstly, banks should not be allowed discretionary powers of doing away with crop insurance as a component of farm loans. Secondly, the premium component for small farmers should be paid for by the state. Also, well-to-do farmers should not get any subsidy for premiums as this will also help curtail frauds pertaining to repeat claims on the same plot of land.
"But most importantly crop insurance policies should not come to a halt when a farmer defaults on account of the stress on him. When he gets continuous protection from agricultural distress, he will be motivated to continue with farming," said the expert.
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