Quest for a just Land Acquisition Policy

By Ramakant Khalap
27 November 2010 13:06 IST

For townships, Highways, Industrial Estates, Infrastructure projects etc.

India is galloping towards a new horizon of wealth and prosperity. It is looking forward to a day when it will emerge as the Super Power. Its growth engines are showing admirable outputs. Per capita incomes are booming. Socio economic indicators of health, wealth and infrastructure are constantly on the rise. Population no doubt is growing but so too is the middle income section of the population. Infant mortality rates have come down drastically. Average life span has increased to almost 70 years.

Sparkling new Airports, Metros, highways and Urban Conglomerates now define the life style at least of the urban Indians. Fashion and design now dictate food habits, clothing, housing, education and everything else. Two wheelers, cars, television sets, refrigerators, washing machines and white goods of every kind are now available off the shelf. In short India is on the threshold of the elite club of developed Countries.

All this development is for a price. It has taken a toll of the rural landscape. Pristine agricultural land is being invaded to satiate the appetite for change and development. The farmer is being uprooted to provide the infrastructure needed for growth.

The common method of taking over land for public purposes is the age old Land Acquisition Act enacted way back in the year… The methodology is simple. The process is set rolling by declaring government’s intention to acquire land for a public purpose through a notification. The land in question is surveyed, mapped and measured.  Compensation to be paid to the land holders is determined by the Collectors on the basis of local enquiry.  Price of similarly situated lands in the vicinity on the date of the first notification declaring government’s intention to acquire the land is taken into consideration.  Objections to acquisition are brushed aside under a spacious plea that public purpose overrides all other concerns. Claims for higher compensation as well as disputes regarding apportionment of the compensation awarded are referred to the courts for decision.

Simple it may sound. But the entire methodology adopted by the bureaucracy is time consuming, apathetic and harsh upon the landholder. Land acquisition is in fact land confiscation for the crime of holding rights in the land fancied by the authorities as most suitable for the so called “public purpose”. Years pass between the date of first notification and date of actual disbursement of compensation. Quite often the land holder loses both his shelter and means of livelihood.  Compensation awarded is so abysmally poor that it defies even the definition of the word compensation.  The scale of injustice meted out to landholders in the name of public purpose defies all logic. No wonder that at times the pent up anger of the land losers manifests in violent agitations as witnessed in recent years in places like Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal, NOIDA in Uttar Pradesh and Gurgao in Haryana.

It is therefore time to take a hard and close look at the process of statutory land acquisition and ensure adequate and efficacious compensation to the land holders whose land is acquired and guaranteeing simultaneously alternate shelter and means of livelihood in appropriate cases.

 Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA in one of her recent reactions to agitations by farmers has set out a road map for land acquisition. She said, “…. If farmers are of necessity deprived of their land based livelihood, they must be provided with adequate compensation and alternate occupation..” 

This principle must also be extended to non farmers who lose their shelter or livelihood or both. The logic is simple. The land holders in the neighborhood of projects set up on acquired land end up benefitting from the project. The potential of their lands increases many fold and they reap dividends for all times to come while the land loser is left cursing his fate and of course the powers that be responsible for his loss. This unjust system must be done away with forthwith.

Fortunately free consultancy in this regard is available. Government of Haryana is now the Role Model for the entire Nation. They have unveiled a fair, just and equitable land acquisition policy. They have hiked the compensation payable to the farmer and laced it with inflation linked royalty payable for 33 years at the rate of Rs 21000/- to Rs 42000/- per year which is linked to inflation and is  increased every year by Rs 750/- to Rs 1500/- depending upon the locality of the land acquired. They have fixed floor rate of land at prices ranging between Rs 12 Lakhs to Rs 42 Lakhs per acre depending again on location of land and its potential for development.  In addition a no litigation incentive at the rate of 20% of the compensation in addition to interest and solatium is offered to the land holders if they agree not to take the matter to the courts. If the land is acquired for a private developer, floor rates and annuity rates are still higher.

Residential plots, business premises and a job per family are additional aspects of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy (R & R Policy) of the State of Haryana. It is a comprehensive policy under which the land oustees are entitled to free technical education, skill up gradation, exemption from stamp duty and registration fee, alternate tube well and other irrigation facilities, a special fund for community development, exemption from Capital Gains Tax, preference in allotment of residential, commercial and industrial plots etc are available. It also provides for Dispute Resolution Mechanism.

Shri Bhupinder Sing Huda, Chief Minister of Haryana is all smiles. “Farmers are now queuing up to offer their land for development”, he informed this writer recently. (See Box for salient features of R & R Policy of Haryna)

Scenario in Goa is far from satisfactory. Large tracks of land are being acquired for Mopa Airport and Sports City in Pedne. Existing Industrial Estates are being extended; new estates are being set up in different parts of Goa. SEZs have come up in large tracks of land. Rajiv Gandhi IT habitat occupies prime land where the land prices are upwards of Rs 50000/- per Sq. mtr. NH4 A and NH17 are being widened. Railways, ports and Defense authorities also want land. Demand for land is ever increasing.

Goa Government is yet to wake up to the call of the new times. Farmers affected by the Mopa Airport and Sports City land acquisition are up in arms. Those likely to be affected by the new alignments of NH4A and NH17 have flexed their muscles. They and their sympathizers have held a massive rally in Panaji and Porvorim and blocked all roads for almost half the day. Communidade of Verna have registered their opposition to additional land acquisition by the Industrial Development Corporation for extension of Verna Industrial estate.  Farmers from Mapusa have started mobilizing against the new Outline development Plan of the Mapusa town which earmarks large tracks of private land for projects like bus and taxi stands, parking lots, gardens, government and municipal buildings, schools and colleges, playgrounds and joggers parks as well as commercial complexes like markets, offices, malls and multiplexes. Land holders from and around other towns like Margao, Ponda Vasco etc are likely  to rise in revolt sooner than later.

I think the Goa Government must act at the earliest if it wants to offset the likely backlash. The R and R Policy of the State of Haryana can be adopted lock, stock and barrel subject of course to such floor price per acre or per square meter and such rates of annuity as may be commensurate to the market conditions prevailing in Goa.

NH4A and NH17 alignments also need a fresh approach. Wherever possible an altogether new alignment bypassing all habitations should be adopted. Konkan Railways adopted this approach with great success. It is possible to align NH17 for the stretch between Patradevi and Colvale bridge bypassing the villages of Torse, Ugve, Poroscade, Malpe and Dhargal. The proposed new alignment will straight away bring the Mopa Airport on NH17. Eliptical one way loops as at Porvorim and fly over roads can be constructed wherever there is no alternative.

New satellite townships can be developed along the Highways at suitable places where land oustees can be accommodated by providing residential and commercial plots. Concept of floating FAR may also be adopted as in cities like Mumbai so that the land oustees may opt for compensation in kind. In all cases temporary residential and commercial spaces must be made available to the oustees to overcome their immediate loss of shelter and means of livelihood. Under no circumstances however there should be any compromise as regards width of the highways or for that matter any road as vehicular traffic is bound to multiply many folds in the years to come.

Apart from the above concepts I would like the Government of Goa, local authorities, corporates and landholders in general to study the MAGARPATTA phenomenon in the neighboring City of Pune in Maharastra. MAGARPATTA is a brand new township within the Municipal Corporation of Pune. It was conceived and constructed by 123 Families of the Magar clan who owned about 700 acres of prime land and faced the threat of its acquisition by the authorities. The Magars formed a company and developed the land into a modern township with the cooperation of the Municipal Corporation of Pune and the Maharastra Government. The farmers are now proud owners of commercial and residential realty which has enriched them beyond their wildest dreams, while the city has got the entire infrastructure that it ever wanted under the town planning laws.

In my opinion, MAGARPATTA can be replicated in Goa with or without variations. More particularly densely populated and slum areas like Moti Dongor in Margao, Sada and Drivr Hill in Vasco, Zuari zopadpatti in Chikhali, Chimbel in Panaji and Corli and Cuncheli in Mapusa can be developed through joint partnership between dwellers/occupants of the shanties, the communidades and private developers. Farmers and land holders affected by Mopa , Sports City, Industrial Estates  and similar other large projects can easily be made joint stake holders in the upcoming projects a la MAGARPATTA.

All outline development plans of towns like Mapusa, Margao, Ponda etc need not remain in cold storage. Instead of acquiring land piece by piece for specific projects against paltry compensation the entire area within the ODP may be acquired by a public purpose vehicle.  The PPV, which may be  a Company like Magarpatta land development Company  may allot say about 50% of the total area acquired for public projects like markets, roads, gardens, bus stands etc to the authorities and return the remaining 50% land to the erstwhile land holders with a right to use it for residential and commercial purposes as per the ODP  as compensation . The authorities will thus get instantly about 50% of the total land under ODP absolutely free.

Such a scheme can be devised under the existing Town Planning laws.  A win-win situation indeed both for the authorities and the landholders including tenants, bhatkars, communidades and other stake holders. Most of the metropolitan development authorities in the Country are following this  town planning concept and Goa must adopt it as well. 

R & R Policy of Haryana – Salient Features

    1.       Market Value as compensation for land acquired. Minimum floor rates prescribed. Land Price fixed between 12 Lakhs to 42 Lakhs and more per acre.

    2.       Annuity for 33 years at Rs 21000/- to Rs 42000/- per year with annual increment of Rs 750/- to Rs 1500/-.

    3.       No litigation incentive equal to 20% of the basic rate of land plus solatium and interest payable under law.

    4.       Residential plots where self occupied house is acquired for unavoidable reasons.

    5.       Commercial sites / industrial plots where 75% and more revenue estate is acquired.

    6.       One job per affected family in group C and D categories and preference in jobs to the dependents.

    7.       Alternate Electricity connection

    8.       Alternate irrigation facility including tubwells

    9.       Exemption from Stamp duty and registration Charges if the oustee invests his compensation in agricultural land within 2 years.

    10.   Special scheme even to agricultural laborers and artisans dependent upon land acquired for their livelihood.

    11.   Free technical education and up gradation of skills of dependents of oustees.

    12.   Creation of Social and Community infrastructure facilities for the benefit of oustees.

    13.   Exemption from Capital Gains tax on compensation.

    14.   Investment Advisory services to oustees to help them invest compensation profitably.

    15.   Grievance / dispute resolution Mechanism..

    Blogger's Profile

    Ramakant Khalap

    Adv Ramakant Khalap is former Chairman of the Goa State Law Commission. Being a veteran politician of Goa, he has served the political arena as the union law minister as well as Goa’s deputy chief minister and the opposition leader in the past. He also takes keen interest in literature and cultural activities while heading several institutions, especially in the field of Marathi literature.

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    Previous Comments

    It is sad to see we have great politicians but they are not elected why is a big ????? its only coz today uneducated and and selfminded politicians are using money and muscle power. who to be blamed are VOTERS. in recent muncipal elections Ministers accused Ministers for use of money so why is the concerned authority not taking any note of it and bring justice is also a clear indication of CORRUPTION.

    - Anthony Pereira, Goa - India | 11 th December 2010 22:06

     

    Yes it would be definitely interesting to review as to how many land acquisition cases- especially for the Konkan Railways-,have been referred to Hon. High Courts by the concerned officials- after the cases have been decreed by the Sessions Courts ! The reasons for such reference to the Higher Courts, would also make interesting reading and may show the attitude of the officials towards the common man whose lands have been acquired by the Govt for a pittance! Infact it will re emphasize the need for the higher authorities to lay down proper guidelines for the bureaucracy to follow while subjecting the common man to unnecessary judicial procedures when the Judiciary is already overloaded with crores of pending cases at various levels!

    Any move to use the lengthy judicial process to harass the common man, subjecting him to mental torture and force him to go to Courts -needs to be strongly condemned!

    - vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 08 th December 2010 16:47

     

    Congratulations,

    Declaration of the Goa Govt published in Goa News on 5th Dec 2010 to introduce the new land acquisition act to acquire land at market price will be a lasting achievement of this government.

    However this act should not be limited to future cases but also to all the pending cases before different courts.

    This is truely an act in public interest

    Shriniwas Khalap

    - Shriniwas Khalap, New Delhi | 07 th December 2010 16:15

     

    A well-studied expression of view. It looks like India is progressing for the higher placed citizens. And when referring to the land grab by the State under the guise of land acquisition for some public project, which is not even visualized beforehand.

    For the poor landholder, it is like the only lamb that is his, is taken from him by the landlord for slaughter insead of one of his own, to provide for his guest.

    If Mr. Khalap, who is a lawyer, a politician (a former Union Minister for Law) and a senior Congress leader, can take a "suo moto" action to our Government, it qould be a great service to Goa, and its people.

    - Ludovico, Old-Goa | 29 th November 2010 09:48

     

    Nicely written article by Mr. Ramakant Khalap! This becomes relevant in the context of thousands of farmers committing suicide every year!

    The land for Konkan Railway in Loliem Canacona, was acquired by the Govt in early 90s and a part of compensation distributed. After almost three years. in place of giving the remaining part of the compensation, the farmers were issued notice to refund a portion of the compensation already given by bringing the price of land as low as Rs 3 per square meter by an award by the collector, thus forcing the farmers to go to Courts!

    After almost 10 years when the Court gave their verdict, the Bureaucrats took the matte to HighCourts where the cases are pending. Now the Officials are boasting to take the farmers to Supreme Court if the High court verdict goes against them.

    This Land acquisition by the Govt. for the Konkan railways is a genuine case of misusing the process of Law only to harass the farmers and dragging them in the lengthy Court procedures !

    As the Chairman of the Law Commission, Mr. Khalap would do a great service to the people of Goa if he could evolve some guidelines for the bureaucrats to follow in the land acquisition cases!

    - Vishwas Prabhudesai, Loliem | 28 th November 2010 10:16

     

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