Land Acquisition Bill – has Modi bought into wrong legacies?

Land Acquisition – Has Modi unwittingly become a vicarious Villain

I was leafing through some literature for some article of mine in 2001-2 re dam oustees and official compensation.I remember reading that for Bhakra Nangal – a dam with a storage area of nearly 168 sq km, only 3,800 families had been identified as displaced by then. (I must admit i am not able to go back to the source). In June 2012, TOI reported that after 40 years of completion of the dam, it is producing the cheapest Electricity in India but those ousted are yet to get their compensation. (see http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/49-years-after-Nehru-dedicated-Bhakra-dam-to-nation-displaced-people-awaits-rehabilitation/articleshow/14079799.cms)

A similar thing with Hirakud Dam in Orissa. Just see this from Wikepedia

“The main purpose of the Hirakud Dam was to check the massive flood that was effecting a large part of coastal Odisha. But construction of the dam greatly affected the native of western part of Odisha. Nearly 150,000 people were affected by the Hirakud project. Nearly 22,000 families were displaced by the dam project.

In the original estimate, an amount of Rs120 million was provided for payment of compensation to the affected people. After revision, the amount was reduced to Rs 95 million and the total compensation paid to the people was, in reality, only Rs 33.2 million. A large number of families were evacuated from their hearth and homes without compensation from 1956 onwards”.

Elsewhere it has been reported that the actual amount received by the families was just Rs 200 per acre – a total of Rs 4-5 million. The dam cost us Rs 1000 million at the time.

BN and Hirakud are not exceptions – in fact there are no regulars at all (every case has been like this).

Most land acquisitions by the government has been official cheating. Insensitive politician (but witness the recent pay hikes one of the legislatures gave itself) , indifferent bureaucracy (the pay commissions takes place always on time if not before -sorry bureaucrats!) and a slothful judiciary (which wants to govern itself despite being the least performing asset) have ensured that they wont get justice  –  ever.

People also saw SEZ land acquired being used for real estate to gain astronomically.

All this anger, frustration, sense of being cheated by one’s own government, rubbed into by officialdom and lethargy (be it bureaucracy or judiciary) was evident in Singrur and Nadigram. The communists faced the wrath.

The source of this pent up anger is the last 60 years of acts and omissions thereof – mostly, if not all, done during the regime of the current champions of the farmers and land losers.

Modi seems to have taken over the hot baton and the anger from the previous regimes (including what he may have created during his CMship in Gujarat). And he looks like the villain responsible for all this accumulated sins and the Congress seems to have washed itself clean of its sins. I must say that it has been a political master stroke by Congress – the best in last 10-15 years.

The current government looks like the thief caught red handed for what someone else did – clumsy and amateurish and bull headed.

Land (may be 125%-150%) for land within 10-12 kms (acquired in retail from usual transaction happening anyway or systematically acquired regularly to form land banks) and some cash compensation could have done the trick – accusation of dispossession, long lead times, govt being pro-corporate, all these would not have become issues.

He could have even moved area by area, as and when required so that the entire comity did not raise as one. The total land affected in the next 5-10 years may not be more than 2-3 lac Ha. The DMIC corridor with 1 km each side of 1300 km stretch would have required (if all land is acquired) 1300 km *2 (sides) * 100 Ha per km = 260000. Actual would have been hardly 26000  Ha. (to illustrate the total land acquired for SEZ is 67,000 Ha out of which only half has been used).

He has managed to stoke the collective accumulated anger of almost everyone who can call himself a farmer, past affected, future likely affected, their sympathizers and those fishing for a political sustenance. He seems to have become the target/symbol for their collective angst

Comprehensive failure of public relations.

6 thoughts on “Land Acquisition Bill – has Modi bought into wrong legacies?

  1. Yes . Agree. Its a public relations debacle all right, but one in which the government can never win, irrespective of which party is in power. Its tough to acquire land stealthily over say five years as you have suggested. Firstly such a move would lead to rampant speculation and all sorts of political pressures (the antics of a former Prime Minister in my home state are fresh). Secondly, it is difficult for governments to predict and acquire the right land.

    This is a knotty problem without any real solution. When land is proposed to be acquired, if there is a poor farmer who is getting displaced, it would be easy to design a full and life long compensation (for example a % of land value every year as an annuity scheme). The problem is that every speculator, politician and gangster enters the fray and that really is the problem.

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  2. Hi Thanks.
    The point was more about the current government inheriting a wrong legacy.
    A working market for land acquisition has to be developed.
    Land is registered at least once in 50 yrs which means at least 2% of land is liquid at any time. Can we not somehow mobilize this and redistribute it to displaced. 2-3 lac Ha in about 329 million Ha is less than 1/10th of 1%. Govt (or can authorize independent people to) can mop up such land. (with exemptions from stamp duty etc) resettle and take over blocks in contiguous land. But this has to be a continuous process – we cant kick start it today for tomorrows needs. The lead time will be at least 5-7 years.

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  3. Just to add the bhoodan movement cornered close to 11 lac Ha. that too w/o compensation. That is patriotism over economics – surely an economic solution can be developed if it is lad for land.

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  4. Well history of BN/Hirakud/any other land acquisition indicates unethical practices followed in past.
    Can we together not raise to the occasion, learn lesion from past wrong doings and create strong law and practices to tread smooth land acquisition in future.
    In the process let it be on case to case basis not to hamper present growth plans and meantime audit entire land available in the country through satellite imagery system or other suitable way, find out cultivable, noncultivable, waste or other types land bank separately, mark them clearly once and for all and marry the land requirement by using waste land first.
    Economic need to be out of politics and people need to have right to ask for accountability from legislative, executive and judicial body for not wasting money and time of tax payers in politics in parliament, improper execution by executive body or biased decision by judicial body individually or collectively

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