Private interest as public purpose
The Bill to amend the 2013 land acquisition Act is neither pro-farmer nor pro-poor
A study of 1660 judgments of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (2009-11) shows how the average government compensation for farmers losing land is just about one-fourth of the market value
Author: Ram Singh
Next week the economic agenda of the Narendra Modi government will face its biggest test in Parliament. The controversial Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (LARR) that has been introduced in Lok Sabha is due for consideration of the house on March 9. While the government seems determined to push the Bill through Parliament, the opposition parties have vowed to oppose it tooth and nail.
The stakes are very high for both sides. Ensuring hassle-free and cheap land to private companies is a crucial component of the economic agenda of the government. The government has made it clear that it will consider only ‘meaningful’ amendments, but will not change the core of the Bill. On the other hand, for opposition parties the Bill offers an opportunity for revival. They want to capitalise on the battle that has been raging outside Parliament.
A foot-march by tens of thousands of farmers, agricultural workers and tribals from 16 States reached Jantar Mantar on February 23 to join a protest launched by Anna Hazare. The social activist has described the ordinance as a grave form of injustice to farmers and others who depend on land for livelihood. Mr. Hazare has made it clear that the current protest is just a beginning of a larger movement that will continue until the anti-farmer Bill was withdrawn.
That many organisations of farmers, agricultural workers and tribals from different parts of the country have started protests is not surprising. Since Independence, millions have been displaced and dispossessed of their livelihood due to land acquisition, and have received a pittance by way of compensation.
Farmers get a pittance
A study I undertook of 1,660 judgments of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, delivered between 2009 and 2011, demonstrates how farmers have been receiving the short end of the stick. It shows that the average government compensation is just about one-fourth of the market value of land. In other words, for a land worth Rs. 1 lakh, on average, the farmer has received Rs. 25,000 and paid a subsidy of Rs. 75,000 to whoever received the land. If this is the case with farmers who could afford costly litigation, what about those too poor to do so?
As to the landless livelihood loser — sharecroppers, labourers, fishermen and artisans — their situation can best be described in the words of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1: “You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live.”
The government has sought to justify the Bill by attacking the LARR as anti-development. The Finance Minister, who is the architect of the ordinance, in his blog has criticised the land acquisition process under the Act as: “A highly complicated process of acquisition which renders it difficult or almost impossible to acquire land can hurt India’s development.”
Such claims are completely misleading. The LARR had been in place only for a year and there is no evidence suggesting that project delays increased during this period. On the contrary, data from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation show that more than 82 per cent of projects suffered delays even under the 1894 Act — the notorious ‘urgency clause’ under this colonial law permitted land acquisition without any scrutiny or hindrance whatsoever. Clearly, several factors other than land acquisition also cause delays.
Also, the government has made much of the increase in compensation; now, it can be two to four times the ‘market rates’. The corporate sector and its sympathiser claim that the increased compensation has rendered many projects unsustainable, threatening the growth prospects. Some UPA leaders also seem to share this view, which is totally baseless, since the officials assess market value using stamp-duty and the sale-deeds rates as proxy. As the above-mentioned study of court cases shows, the latter rates are a fraction of the actual market prices. Therefore, even at two to four times the stamp-duty rates, the compensation will be less than the actual value.
The SIA and the R&R are crucial for ensuring that people get dispossessed and displaced when it is really worth it. Similarly, prior consent of the affected families is a necessary check on the misuse of the eminent domain power of the state. With these provisions absent, how can the bill be pro-farmer and pro-poor?
(Ram Singh is Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
Directions: Read the following passage carefully and answer the question given below it. Some words have been printed in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions
Ques. 1 By opposing the bill, how can the bill can offer an opportunity for the revival of the opposition government?
(a) No matter what, by opposing the efforts of the Modi’s government, the UPA can get an access back into the parliament.
(b) By playing the blame game
(c) By playing the sympathy game with the thousands of farmers, agricultural workers and tribals.
(d) By supporting the Anna Hazare, they can gain many votes of his supporters.
(e) None of these
Ques. 2 According to Anna Hazare, why the ordinance is the “grave form of injustice”?
(a) Boosting the industry sector will hamper the growth of the agriculture sector.
(b) The farmers are receiving the pittance by the way of compensation.
(c) Majority of populations will drift towards the industrial sector, which will leave a dent on the agricultural sector.
(d) The government is not providing the right way of living for the farmers.
(e) None of these
Ques. 3 Describe “You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live.”
Ques. 4 Why the huge turn-out of farmers in Anna Hazare protest is not surprising?
(a) People are looking for a leader like Anna Hazare, who can make their voices heard.
(b) Since Independence, millions have been displaced and dispossessed of their livelihood due to land acquisition.
(c) The government has been belligerent and repentant towards the farmer’s needs.
(d) After the downfall of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, the huge turnout is our of pity for him.
(e) None of these
Ques. 5 Why Arun Jaitley, the architect of the ordinance, criticized it later?
Ques. 6 What is the “urgency clause” in 1894 Act?
Ques. 7 Can Modi’s Govt can be considered as the “anti-farmer”. Please elaborate.
Ques. 8 Who, according to you, is compassionate and concerned about the farmers – Anna Hazare, Modi & UPA? Elaborate.
Ques. 9 Expand SIA and RAR.
Ques. 10 According to you, how the central government can make the bill pro-farmer and pro-poor?
Directions: Which of the following words is most opposite in meaning of the word printed in bold as used in the passage?
Ques. 11 Capitalise
Ques. 12 Litigation
(e) None of these
Ques. 13 Hindrance
Directions: Which of the following words is the same in meaning as the word printed in bold as used in the passage:
Ques. 14 Tooth and Nail
(a) full tilt
(b) go along
(c) make peace
Ques. 15 Eminent
Ques. 16 Scrutiny
(c) cursory look
Answers 4. b