The trouble with Land acquisitions: In between development and corruption

Recent news coverage of the land grabbing case in Manesar, CBI carrying out raids in more than 20 premises and the alleged involvement of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, along with his close aides and bureaucrats, turned out the murkier side of land acquisitions in name of development.

Haryana yet again emerged out as a hub of land encroachments, including districts like Rohtak, Gurgaon, Panchkula, Chandigarh and Delhi, with the farmers there been cheated of Rs 1,500 crore.

On the contrary in West Bengal, there was a major development when the Apex Court struck down the acquisition of 997 acres of land in Singur by the Left Front government for Tata Motors. It announced that the farmers will get back their land in its pristine, cultivable form, and they can keep their compensation as well.

In a similar pretext of circumstances but with a rational approach, back in 2003 in Jammu and Kashmir under late Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the government acquired lands for railway project from the farmers but in return secured jobs for them in the railway department along with compensations. Today after thirteen years, those land owners and farmers are working in that railway belt as per their qualification.

Land acquisition by the government has always been for development, however, corrupt leaders to fill their own pockets have illegally encroached land without  proper compensation to the farmers.

In fact, one of the legal challenges to land acquisition in India is a just compensation and consent. The mandate of compensation should be such that the landowners are paid the market value of their lands. But this principle, might lead to very inadequate compensation since market value in itself is a volatile concept, the dynamics changes when an agricultural land is used for industry, the market value of the land increases by orders of magnitude. Moreover this also fails in account of loss of livelihood of farmers. So there should not be any forceful act rather landowners should be allowed to withhold consent and raise compensation.

The critics of land acquisition accuse the government of selling out to the corporate. Though many government officials do enjoy huge kickbacks, the dangers of it becoming self-fulfilling have landed these deals illegal scams and frauds.

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