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Farmers' woes whose land is it anyway?


A holistic land acquisition policy to protect farmers from penury has been long overdue
September 5, 2010 16:50
Tags : Farmers |BSP government |IAS office | jobless |

Farmers’ woes Whose land is it anyway?A scramble to grab the land of farmers is on around the entire country. Industrialists and the powers-that-be have joined hands in this conspiracy of acquiring land at a negligible price. On the land holdings on which depend the future of farmers, hawks and alligators have trained their eyes. 

I will begin with an example. In 1996, land for Sector 62 in Noida was acquired from the villages of Bahlaulpur, Navaada and Rasoolpur. You must be aware that today this sector is among the most developed institutional areas of the country and the cost of even one square metre is in lakhs of rupees. At that time the rate of land was fixed at Rs 69 per square metre. The farmers protested against the low price. I went to meet the then CEO of the Noida Authority, Ravi Mathur, as a representative of the farmers. During the discussion, I asked the IAS officer about the rate per metre of the cloth of the coat he was wearing. The answer: Rs 700 per metre. I asked him if the rate of the fertile land should be less than even the cost of the cloth for his coat. The coat, I argued, would not be worn for more than four-five years, but the land they were going to acquire would support several generations of farmers. Anyway, Mr Mathur accepted our proposal and raised the rate of compensation from Rs 69 to Rs 360 per square metre. He also ordered that 10 per cent of the land be given to the farmers.

India lacks a proper law on land acquisition and the government has no clear policy. The laws appled today were made by the British in 1894 with an aim to grab the maximum land in India. According to this law, the government can acquire land in the public interest to build schools and hospitals. If the land is acquired with this aim it is good, but if it is acquired and then given to an industrialist at throwaway prices, who make crores out of it, it is clearly unjustified.

But this is what’s happening. Land is being acquired in the name of public interest and given to businessmen and builders. Take the case of Noida-Agra Expressway for which the BSP government of Uttar Pradesh is acquiring land from the farmers and plans to make a toll road and develop townships and commercial complexes on either side of the road. The company making the road will earn huge profits from the toll-tax and the builders will make money from the complexes. And what about the farmers, the original owners of the land? Well, a paltry compensation that will probably not suffice even to meet the needs of the present generation, let alone the coming ones! Farmers are always cheated. When the government acquires land, it pays compensation as per agricultural land prices. But as soon as this agricultural land is converted into commercial or residential land, its rates increase manifold. Thus the government should compensate the farmers as per the expected rate of the commercial land after the conversion. Besides, farmers should be assured jobs and given plots and shares according to the ratio of their land. Also, the farmers should get the right to bargain for their land so that he is able decide to whom and at what rate he should sell his land instead letting it be acquired under coercion. Around 30 per cent of profits of the project should got to the farmer who owned the land. The government acquired land large scale during the 1970s and 1980s in the vicinity of Delhi to establish industries. Land acquired at throwaway prices is being given to hotels and shopping malls. Is that justified? I know many farmers on whose land big industries have come up but their children are jobless or daily wage workers. 

There is the ‘pagdi’ tradition in the case of shops in our country. The condition is that whenever the tenant will lease it to a new person he will pay a part of the raised rent and also a portion of the pagdi to the shop owner. The same should be followed here also. If the industrialist sells the land to someone else or uses it to build a mall or a hotel, a portion of the increased price should go to the farmer. I would like to dispel this notion that farmers are getting rich. Only a small number of farmers have become crorepatis as a result of the compensation they have received. In most cases of land acquisition, farmers have been devastated. The gap between acquisition and payment of compensation is many years. Once the land is acquired, the farmer becomes jobless and he takes loans from the moneylender. When he gets the compensation, it goes into paying interest to the moneylender. The principal is repaid when he gets a plot mucn later. Yes, some farmers who got the compensation and their plot simultaneously to prosper a little. But their number is negligible. If we have to save our farmers, we will have to formulate a holistic policy. It is also important to save our farmland for the cause of food security.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017