Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: UP land acquisition

UP land acquisition

  • The Uttar Pradesh government's new land acquisition policy, announced in the face of farmers'protests and impending elections, is a significant improvement over existing practices. It is sounder than the amendments to the central Act proposed by the UPA government, which have been awaiting enactment since 2007. Poor compensation calculated on rates based on the pre-development phase, a lack of consultation, and cumbersome procedures have marred the whole business of land acquisition across India. Unlike land acquired for public projects such as construction of roads, the state-enabled forcible takeover of farmland to promote private development has been strongly and rightfully challenged. The Mayawati government has commendably attempted to address some of these issues. First, the government will henceforth not directly involve itself in acquiring land for private developers. Secondly, the acquisition will not proceed without 70 per cent of the farmers consenting to the project. Thirdly, on top of the cash compensation, 16 per cent of the developed land will be given to them. In the case of land acquired for roads and canals, each affected family will be provided with a job, along with shares in the development company. These new measures are to be implemented prospectively. This means, the farmers of Bhatta-Parsaul villages who started the agitation will, unfortunately, not benefit from them.

  • The new policy, which sensitively integrates compensation with rehabilitation, paves the way for consensus-building. However, there is scope for improvement. For instance, the percentage of allotment of developed land need not be a fixed figure; it can be related to the extent of the impact of a project and the scale of acquisition involved. Small farmers may find it difficult to handle complicated share transactions, so simplified procedures must be put in place. Alternatives to land acquisition also need to be encouraged. For example, a study of international land acquisition practices has shown that land readjustment followed in countries such as Japan and South Korea is an alternative worth considering. This system encourages landowners to collectively negotiate land transfers and seek either land-for-land exchange or other forms of stake-holding and compensation. In India, land and development are State subjects but acquisition of land falls under the Concurrent List. The central Land Acquisition Act, 1894 is the legal instrument that is widely used by many State governments.

  • The Mayawati government's change of course is a reminder to the UPA that the central Act needs comprehensive and urgent change placing equity and justice at the centre of the process.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India