For fair land acquisition

Posted on September 12, 2010 | View 481

Modernise Land Acquisition Law

The Supreme Courts nod for the Yamuna Expressway project is positively welcome,but its wholly avoidable that land acquisition across India should involve protests,street violence and the spilling of blood.What we clearly need is proactive policy to rightfully compensate land-title holders and others dependent on the land.Farmers rights must be heeded and respected,as reiterated by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.Now it is inevitable that with rising incomes,and ongoing structural diversification of the economy away from farming,land should be diverted to build urban spaces that house industry and services.Its also a no-brainer that public-private partnerships are required for land acquisition given the dearth of governmental funds,as in the Yamuna project,which would link Greater Noida with Agra.The project investors propose to finance it by building urban spaces and entire cities,which is unexceptionable.The apex court has ruled that the Yamuna project clearly involves public purpose.

There is pressing need,however,to institutionalise norms for payment of the land being acquired,incorporating continued stakeholdership for the landloser.This would involve three things.The land needs to be valued at the going market rates plus an attractive premium since under-reporting of transactions is routine.Also,since substantial appreciation of land value can be expected upon acquisition and development,there needs to be builtin provisions for reaping capital appreciation,by way of lease rentals that are periodically revised,by ownership of developed land in proportion to the original holding,etc.Next,income loss must be compensated with an annuity plan,covering not just land-owners,but those who live off the acquired land,as well.Reports say that the government in UP has now included annuity for those giving up land for the Yamuna project,following protests.The law must be reformed,to obviate the need for protest.The extant 19th-century legislation,albeit amended three decades ago,can no longer guide policy in a high-growth economy undergoing structural change.The new bill to replace this law must be modified further,to accommodate the concerns discussed above.

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