Land Acquisition Act- Some Serious Ticklish Issues

Jairam Ramesh’s draft bill has proposed a three-in- one bill for land acquisition, compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement, and is known as The National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011.

The bill provides compensation not only to the landowners but also for those whose livelihoods depend on the land up for acquisition such as agriculture labour or artisans.

Mamta brought this third dimension of compensation in Singur. Land compensation normally would have gone to the land owners only. But in Bengal the left government had given the land to actual tillers through its famed land reform. But the government didn’t change the ownerships to those tillers and the zamindars, the original land lords, remained as its land owners in the government records. Many zamindars, who had lost their land many years ago, got a good amount of money.

Even today, many states have neither updated the land records nor put it on internet. With India’s might of IT, the records must be digitized as priority. Now the land owners must press for it.

Another problem will also be with getting the consent of 80% of the land owners or perhaps all affected. With land holding becoming marginal around one hectare or less, the number of persons involved will be pretty large. Unscrupulous will become middle men and play havoc with this situation.

I fail to understand how effectively the livelihood losers can be enumerated. Will the government be able to create an effective data? With many villagers following varied means of earnings in different places, it will be next to impossible. It will again create ghost list of livelihood losers and thereby benefiting the middlemen or officers with unscrupulous intentions and expertise of manipulating the system. How will the government control it or should we conclude that the government intends to get their men benefited?

Land acquisition policies that have come out from some states, be it Gujarat, Haryana and then Uttar Pradesh have tried to outdo each other. Will the states when a new party comes in power again make it more attractive and pay from backdates? Will it be part of manifestos of the political party? Will Jairam’s bill supersede all the state’s policies?

Jairam must try through the bill the acquisition transparent, as it involves a lot of black money changes hands. It mustn’t make the acquisition a bottleneck in the overall process of country’s development through industrialization and urbanization process as it is today when around $ 300 or more worth of projects waiting for getting the land in hand for the projects to start.

It’s good thing that Jairam makes it a feather in its government cap. His compensation proposals in the bill are really attractive and will be liked.

But will the bill make the compensation a onetime deal and no demand for additional compensation be allowed through collective protest? The bill must also provide a strict timeframe for using the land for the project to put a pressure for speedy implementation.

And the private companies must not be allowed to dispose of the land acquired for the public purpose at any time in gainful manner that has been observed.

But under the present system of working of the parliament, when can the people of India expect the land bill to be implemented?

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