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September 2, 2008

Reforming land acquisition

Issue 18 - Sep 2008
M R Madhavan

The issue of land acquisition for industrial projects and Special Economic Zones, providing compensation, and relief and rehabilitation has been in the news for the last couple of years. Protests against the acquisition in Singur, West Bengal may lead to a postponement of the launch of the Tata Nano, and possibly the relocation of the project to another state. Land acquisition for industrialisation and other projects such as the Narmada dams highlight the issues of adequate compensation and protecting the living standards of the displaced people.

Two Bills currently pending in Parliament address several aspects of these issues. The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 proposes changes in the conditions under which land may be acquired, the process of acquisition, as well as modifications in computing the compensation for the land. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 provides for benefits and compensation for all persons displaced due to land acquisition.

What would have happened, to take the Singur case as an example, if these Bills had been passed? The land would be valued at industrial rates and not at agricultural rates. Also, the Tatas would have had to purchase 70 percent of the land through negotiations. These factors would likely have resulted in a market value that the sellers would perceive as being fair. All the displaced persons would also be entitled to various rehabilitation and resettlement benefits.

Perhaps these compensation and resettlement packages would have made the acquisition process smoother and seen a lower level of resentment and resistance.


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