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Posted at: Sep 3, 2018, 12:24 AM; last updated: Sep 5, 2018, 7:46 PM (IST)

Paradise Lost

Land acquisition must not be seen only through the economic prism. It is an essential process for infrastructural development and economic growth, but it should not take place at the cost of disrupting the socio-cultural equilibrium, says Radhika Kumar

With the adoption of the Haryana Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Rules 2018, the Government of Haryana has sought to align its land acquisition policy with that of the Central government Act of 2013. This is indeed a welcome move, given that land acquisition has progressed exponentially in the state since the mid-1990s and most such acquisitions were made under the Land Acquisition Act 1894, which did not include the clause of seeking consent of the landowner before the land was acquired. 

 
The state, through various policies adopted since 2005, has attempted to enhance monetary compensation by fixing 'minimum  floor rates of property'; by dividing the state into five zones; paying an annuity for a fixed period; payment of 'solatium'; introducing  a scheme titled 'no litigation incentive' wherein if land oustees agree to forego contesting the land acquisition and compensation paid thereof in court; they would be paid an additional compensation amount; award of residential or commercial plots to oustees as well as a provision to impart training to land oustees so that they may seek alternative avenues of employment. However, while all these measures address various aspects of compensation, including what may be called 'emotional compensation' through payment of a solatium, land acquisition has changed the fabric of life in many rural pockets in Haryana. 

An instance of the same is the case of the Industrial Model Township (IMT) set up in Faridabad district for which land was acquired in 2008 from five villages. Following the acquisition of land by the government, the farmers who were unwilling to part with the land and also felt that the compensation paid by the government was much below the market value of the land. They organised themselves into the IMT Kisan Sangharsh Samiti. The farmers also petitioned the high court to enhance the amount of compensation. While they received a favourable verdict from the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2014, the farmers then launched an agitation to pressurise the government to release the enhanced compensation amount along with the interest due to them. 

In the latest of such agitations, which was initiated on December 17, 2017 and included a rally attended by Anna Hazare on February 4, 2018, the farmers have sought to make the government concede their demands. These include payment of the remaining compensation dues, jobs for one member of a family whose land has been acquired and approach roads for farmers whose land was next to the IMT boundary. 

This particular rally was well attended by farmers not only from the five villages whose land was acquired but also by those from neighbouring villages. The organisers claimed that farmers from 19 villagers had joined the rally. Men and women were both in attendance, seated in separate enclosures. Various farmers’ organisations such as the 'Neharpar Kisan Sangharsh Samiti' and the 'Eastern Peripheral Expressway Kisan Sangharsh Samiti' which were also protesting against compulsory land acquisition and non-payment of compensation, joined them in support of the agitating IMT Kisan Sangharsh Samiti. 

Attempting to keep the rally peaceful, the organisers repeatedly asked the gathering to maintain calm and order. They reiterated the non-violent nature of their protest and also emphasised the non-political character of the rally. What was also noticeable was that most of those who came for the rally were old and middle aged farmers. The participation of the youth was limited and they were essentially involved in the rally logistics. The only group of young participants who joined the rally was the followers of a local Congress youth leader who came to show solidarity with the farmers. Invoking the legacy of Sir Chhotu Ram; the leaders sought to leverage moral capital through the slogan 'khet par kisan aur seema par jawan' (the farmer on the field and the soldier on the border). 

Hence, what the rally made evident was the ability of the farmers to organise and agitate and to make themselves heard to the authorities concerned. In fact, each time they sat on a 'dharna' (sit-in), they claimed to have received a part of the compensation. 

Yet, the rally visuals also brought out the demographic divide in participation, as the rural youth largely stayed away from the protest.  Many amongst the youth are unemployed in these villages as the traditional occupation of farming is no longer an option on account of land acquisition. Also, these youth largely belong to the dominant castes which own/owned most of the rural land.  Yet, as one local explained, most of such youth are 'voluntarily unemployed'. This is because they do not wish to work in the unskilled jobs which are on offer in IMT.  Such jobs are perceived as demeaning and involve a loss of social standing. 

Land acquisition has transformed the rural landscape, replacing farmers with rentiers. Farmers now rent out flats, land in adjacent villages and even farming equipment to earn their living. Others have used the staggered compensation payments to indulge in conspicuous consumption by buying extravagant cars and building palatial homes. 

Monetisation of land has changed the life world of the farmer wherein the older generation of owner-cultivators lament the lack of gainful employment opportunities for the youth. They speak of the loss of location as the villages are reduced to rural islands amongst urbanised sectors.  Most importantly, they flag the inevitability of industrialisation and concomitant urbanisation. As the government deals with escalating costs of litigation and compensation through a 'land pooling scheme', the farmers of other villages which are earmarked for land acquisition under the Faridabad Master Plan 2031, speak of small mercies in so far as they are free to sell their land to private developers who are expected to pay higher rates of compensation than the government. They hope to receive the compensation immediately, without having to agitate for each instalment.


The Central Legislation

  • Land acquisition is a Concurrent Subject
  • Governed by central and state laws
  • The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 governed land acquisitions until 2014
  • The UPA government enforced the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 in January, 2014  
  • The NDA government promulgated an ordinance to revise the law in December, 2014
  • The ordinance was modified and re-promulgated in April and May, 2015
  • The LARR Bill (Second Amendment), 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha in May, 2015 to replace the ordinance, referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee
The diluted Bill 

  • Enables government to exempt five types of projects from the requirements of 
  • Social impact assessment (SIA)
  • Restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land
  • Consent for private and public-private-partnerships projects
  • These five types of projects are:   
  • Defense
  • Rural infrastructure
  • Affordable housing
  • Industrial corridors 
  • Infrastructure
  • Requires prior sanction to prosecute a government employee
  • In place of giving employment to one member of the affected family, it proposed employment to one member of “affected family of farm labour”
— The writer is with Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi

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