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UP’s Land Acquisition Policy - Any Surprises?
After rounds of Protests by Farmers and Opposition groups, The Ruling UP Govt. announced a New Land Acquisition Policy of The State. The Improvements as most did not expect, took many by Surprise. Is it a beginning-much-needed, or is it just another Political Gimmick?
Issue Date - 23/06/2011
Facing flak from the ruling coalition in the Centre over the stand-off between the Noida administration and residents of Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida, Mayawati, the Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh, on June 2, 2011, announced a new policy for land acquisition in the state. Under the newly laid-out policy, all land transactions hereon, will now be struck using a consensual approach. This will happen through a direct dialogue between the private developers and the land owners.

“The role of the government now would be that of a facilitator only, limited to issuing a notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894,” said the Chief Minister while briefing the media in Lucknow at a press conference organised to announce the new Land Acquisition Policy of the state. This is the second such policy to be announced by the Mayawati regime in the past nine months. The previous one was declared on September 3, 2010. The new policy will be implemented with prospective effect and will not apply to land acquired during the time period when the previous policy was active. The announcement of the new policy followed a “kisan panchayat” addressed by the Chief Minister. The panchayat was attended by farmers’ representatives from Bharatiya Kisan Union, including its general secretary Rakesh Tikait, and those from Tappal and Bhatta-Parsaul.

According to Mayawati, the new policy had been devised after elaborate discussions with the farmers’ representatives. Describing the new policy, the CM claimed it would be better than the “proposed land acquisition policy of the UPA government”. The Congress, which a few days back had slammed the UP chief minister for alleged atrocities in the process of acquiring land for the Yamuna Expressway project and had spoken volumes against the state’s policy, did not respond to her claims. Mayawati claimed that the issue of land acquisition policy would be raised by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the monsoon session of the Lok Sabha and if the Centre’s policy was not announced, the BSP would ‘gherao’ the Parliament.

Voices from the industry have been divided on this issue. The two major industry bodies, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), have expressed dissenting views on the matter. The major point of contention appears on the role of the government. While CII has found support with the National Advisory Council’s (NAC) suggestion that the government should play a prominent role in the process of all land acquisitions, FICCI believes otherwise. Speaking to B&E on the role of the government, Chetan Bijesure, FICCI’s Additional Director, says, “In the case of UP, the role of the government has changed from that of an acquirer to one of a facilitator. We are not saying that the government should be absolved of the entire process. We are advocating a model that ensures better results for farmers as they will have the option to negotiate better rates.” Further, he adds, “The past instances where the state government has acquired land, we have seen the [unsatisfactory] results (in West Bengal, UP, Orissa). Also, the option of the developer meeting the farmer directly reduces the possibility of vested interests influencing the process at any given stage.” B. Muthuraman, President of CII, however had a different explanation for recommending a greater government involvement. As per him, the government cannot absolve its responsibility in land acquisitions. “We are pleased to note that NAC is also of the similar view on this critical issue. The State must fulfil its responsibility for economic development and play a critical role in acquiring land for industrial projects, as planned industrialisation is essential for job creation and inclusive growth,” says Muthuraman.

The mass agitations which had become synonymous with land acquisitions in the state could only be dealt through innovative solutions, and the confidence with which the UP government has doled out the fresh land acquisition policy, is backed by the reforms that it proposes to bring out.

Government sources told B&E that the new policy on land acquisition has broadly been categorised into three parts. The first part deals with direct transfer of land from farmers to private developers, with the state (district administration) merely playing the role of a facilitator. The policy underlines that the compensation package against the acquisition of land will be prepared only after the terms and conditions have been approved by 80% of the farmers or land owners whose land is to be acquired for a particular project. Failure of the private parties to woo 80% of the farmers would result in reconsideration of the project proposal. Additionally, the farmers have been given the option of taking 16% of the land developed for the project along with annuity at the rate of Rs.23,000 per acre for a period of 33 years. The farmers will also have the option for cash component in lieu of a portion of the 16% developed land. Furthermore, farmers who wish to forgo annuity will be entitled to a rehabilitation grant at the rate of Rs.276,000 per acre. [The rehabilitation grant in the September 2010 policy was fixed at Rs.240,000 per acre.]

The second part of the policy states that farmers whose agricultural land has been acquired for building state highways and canals will be entitled to all the benefits accruing under the state’s Relief and Rehabilitation (R&R) Policy, 2010. Apart from the rehabilitation grant, 25% shares of the developer company will be allotted to the farmer and one member of each farmer’s family will also be given employment in the company. In the third part of the policy, where land has been acquired by the development authorities under the master plan, the deal will be executed only abiding by the terms of agreement through a consensual approach, sources told B&E. Mayawati’s new land acquisition policy has definitely set a benchmark for the Centre to better (when it brings its bill to the monsoon session of Parliament). The events could also, actually translate into the UPA coming out with a more farmer-friendly Land Acquisition Bill.


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