Alarming Land Amendments in various states in India – A dangerous proposition for the poor Indian farmers

In the backdrop of the Land Ordinance fiasco at a national level it is imperative to constantly monitor individual states and what they are doing to the land acquisition policies. Draft changes to Land Act  that was presented in state legislature of Rajasthan (THE RAJASTHAN LAND ACQUISITION BILL, 2014) is alarming. According to the latest reports, Gujarat has amended important clauses in Tenancy and Agricultural Land acts. The multiplicity of laws, constant amendments and overall a situation of chaos prevails in the space of land acquisition right now and its a persistent request to citizens of respective states to keep an eye over the existing state land policies, any attempts at amendment, proper implementation/drafting of the rules of RFCTLARR 2013.

Here is a compiled report :

There are 15 different laws under which land can be acquired nationally. Each state has created its own version of the national act (earlier 1894 Act) and widespread confusion reigns over India’s hinterland where different state authorities and private capital are taking advantage of the multiplicity of laws to appropriate land which belongs to the people of this country.

Respective state governments are party to this land grab and only their opinion can’t serve as the justification to dilute RFCTLARR 2013. Here is a ground report prepared with the help of people’s representatives in different states.

Situation in Gujarat

In Gujarat the draconian Special Investment Region Act 2009 bypasses the national land acquisition act and tries to appropriate 50% of land without any compensation. To subvert the RFCTLARR 2013, it is being done in the name of ‘land-pooling’ instead of ‘acquisition’. Farmers across the state, especially from the Dholera region have strongly opposed the SIR notification.

The Gujarat Assembly has, recently, passed some controversial amendments to 4 existing legislations, viz.

  • The Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948
  • The Saurashtra Gharkhed, Tenancy Settlement and Agricultural Lands Ordinance, 1949
  • The Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Vidarbha Region and Kutch Area) Act, 1958
  • The Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960

The thrust of all amendments in these 4 legislations is to make transfer of land to industry and industrialists as easy as possible and at minimum cost to the purchasing industry/industrialist by legalizing any and all (past) illegalities on their part. Not only that, pending legal cases are also to be deemed to have lapsed, bringing into question whether the phrase ‘rule of law’ holds meaning any longer. Moreover, while deciding legality/validity or otherwise of questionable transactions, the government official (Collector/Mamlatdar) have been granted arbitrary powers of the highest degree. The government is also, by law, making it mandatory for itself to ‘rescue’ a rogue industrialist who fails in his/her undertaking to put up an industry and to compensate him/her ‘adequately and appropriately’.

(Source : Persis Ginwallah)

Situation in Maharashtra

Acquisition is on under MIDC Act and National Highway Act which had started before 2013.

In Raigad DMIC area the land was being acquired using MIDC Act and 7/12 extracts carried the stamp. Those stamps are still there and the same acquisition process is on using private negotiation method which means legally they have not withdrawn the earlier notification, nor have they removed the stamps from 7/12 extract, which in a way is pressurising farmers and not allowing any other transaction. At the same time privately negotiating with the land owners by which the MIDC and State Govt. can maintain that there is no forced acquisition.

After 2013 act came into being the same process is continued.

The state govt. has passed the rules and notified on 27th august 2014 and certain amendments have been made again on 26th may 2015.
The consent clause is there only for private land acquisition and there is no mention about PPP projects in the state rules.

Social Impact Assessment clause is same as per the central act. The provision for compensation is also as per the central act.

As per the RFCTLARR Amendment Bill, acquisition for corridors would take place only within range of one km across the designated roads but the acquisition in Raigad is 150 kms away from Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor and in  range of 15 -20 kms  away from national highway. Many villages which are currently under acquisition fall into eco sensitive zone in Western Ghat region but these villages have not been excluded from DMIC.

[Source – Ulka Mahajan, Sarvahara Jan Andolan]

Situation in Rajasthan

The Rajasthan Land Acquisition Bill 2014 (Draft) has been unanimously labelled by people’s movements as more draconian than the 1894 act.

Compensation is to be awarded by multiplying the “market price” by various factors – but the “market price” is supposedly that reflected in average sale deeds (s. 12). sale deeds reflect only a fraction of the real price. And, just to be safe, the bill goes on to say the Collector can ignore any sale deed that actually reflects a high price.

“Resettlement and rehabilitation” will consist of providing 10% more money in some cases and 30% in other cases (s.22). Nothing else will be done for resettling those displaced.

Obstructing acquisition of land” will be punished by at least six months’ imprisonment and a fine of anywhere from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 3 lakh. (s. 70)

Landowners’ consent will only be taken for “purely private projects.” It will not be required for any PPP project that is “needed for the social and economic operation and development of the state” (i.e. anything; read s. 2 and s. 3(f)(xv) together).

[Source – Campaign for Survival & Dignity]

Situation in Telengana

According to Draft Telangana State Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilition and Resettlement Rules, 2014 – In the Rule 11(2) it is provided that, ‘Public hearings shall be conducted in all Gram Sabhas where more than twenty five per cent of the members are directly or indirectly affected by the acquisition of the land’. If we take the example of livestock rearers or agricultural labourers from several surrounding villages who may not add upto to 25% of a single gram sabha but whose numbers may run into several hundred families, this provision could cause an injustice to these project affected people as well as to the central role and prominence of Gram Sabha as a primary democratic institution.

The draft rules make no mention of the detailed rules, requirements and procedures related to seeking the prior consent of Gram Sabha in relation to land acquisition for any project as provided under chapter III, Sections 16-20 along with Part- B of FORM-IV of the central rules. Section 19(1) of the draft State rules makes only a passing reference to the SIA study and consent of the affected persons or Gram Sabha. Also, no format for Gramsabha resolution regarding its consent or refusal is provided in the list of Forms appended to the draft rules.

Rule 29 in the draft rules provides that, ‘The limits on extent of land beyond which provisions of Rehabilitation and Resettlement under the Act in Cases of purchase by a private company through Private Negotiation with the owner of the land shall be 2,000 acres subject to any further notification as may be notified by Government’.

This fixation of limit up to 2000 acres of land for application of Rehabilitation and Resettlement provisions in case of private companies is a total violation of the spirit of the Act. Acquisition of 2000 acres of land at one place and putting the same too non-agriculture use or change from its present use causes adverse impact on the livelihoods of several thousands of families in the area. In these cases, neither the Government nor any private company can abstain themselves from the responsibility of the consequences arising out of such changes in land use. Part of the profits or value addition that accrues form such land use diversion and conversion to the Government as well as to the Private company, shall be used to rehabilitate the affected families as per the provisions of the Act as well as under the principle of equity and justice.

Land Acquisition not to exceed 15% of Net Cultivable Area in State: Rule 31 states that the land acquisition shall not exceed 15% of the net present cultivable area in the State and the limits in the districts shall be prescribed by the District Collectors concerned as contemplated under Section 10(4) of the Act subject to any further notification as may be notified by Government.

Proposed Change: It is unclear on what basis this rule has been framed. There must be a scientific, transparent, context-specific basis and criteria for deciding the threshold levels beyond which acquisition of farmlands will not be permissible at all levels (Village, District, Mandal etc) in the State. As far as possible, lands from existing land banks with various Government Corporations such as TSIIC, housing board, irrigation department etc along with lands acquired by other private companies lying unused and vacant should first be exhausted before considering any fresh acquisition.

[Source – Raghu Pillai]

Situation in Odisha:

The Draft Rules to implement the RFCTLARR, 2013 has formed a Land Bank which will be collection of the Govt. owned waste land, vacant, abandoned, unutilized acquired lands and tax-delinquent properties. The land acquired but not utilized within a period of five years will revert back to the state and deposited in the Land Bank automatically. This will be complete injustice to the people as they give their land in the name of socio-economic development. If the land remain unutilized, there should be provision of compensation and penalty too because of excessive land acquisition and hurting the hopes of local villagers who gave away their lands.

Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Koraput (fully scheduled area in these three districts), Raigada, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Boudhkondmals, Ganjam, Kalahandi, Bolangir, Balasor (parts of these districts only) of the state comes under Fifth Schedule which recognizes the user rights of community on the forests and community land. Under section 42 of the RFCTLARR Act, 2013, the area has been available for acquisition with provisions of, resettlement in the new area with all the benefits, and, will do the payment of monetary benefits assessed for the community rights shared by every individual concerned, who has been displaced due to the acquisition of land in proportion with his share in such community rights. This can lead to violation of the laws and policies for protection of the indigenous rights of STs and other forest dwelling communities and their social structure. The Draft Rules has no mention of the process of acquisition in such areas and what will happen if the rules were violated in the due process (as directed in sub-section (9) of section 41 of RFCTLARR Act, 2013) or after the land remain unutilized after 05 years besides the deposition of land automatically to Land Bank.

The Draft rules also has not made clear about the acquisition or process of acquisition of land titles granted to STs and other Traditional Forest Dwellers, in the name of Forest Rights Rules, 2007, which was stated to subject to acquisition and compensation (as per the notification of Govt. of Odisha, Revenue & Disaster Management Department, No. LA-(C) 19/13(KJR), Source: for the said land and the ownership of the forest land lies with the Govt. and Kissam of forest remains same in the records.

Apart from this, a lot of struggles are happening against POSCO steel plant, captive port projects in Jagatsinghpur district, the Vedanta alumina refinery project in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, the Mittal steel project in Keonjhar and mining in the Khandadhar region. Along with this nearly 30 land acquisition projects in Sundergarh, Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts including projects related to steel and coal mines is also being reviewed by the State Govt. due to lack of proper environmental and other clearances. The disturbance has already started, because of all these projects in the areas. The people of the state, have also criticized the Special Economic Zone Act, which is displacing the people and snatching the land and livelihoods of people in the name of economic development.

In the same state, the people of 12 Gram Sabha has earlier rejected the proposal of Vedanta, supported by the further rejection of proposal on the ground of Gram Sabha’s rejection, but at the same time, Govt. is providing land for POSCO by excluding the villages earlier planned for acquisition and reduced the total required land from 4004 acres to 2700 acres, to quash the people’s agitation, and provided 28 betelvines for the project area belonged to the government, where the locals used to cultivate betel.

The CAG report also shows high irregularity in land acquisition and a large chunk of land remained unutilized. The development is stalled not because of hurdles in land acquisition rather than due to lack of investment.

Note: The CAG report was done only in Odisha, looking at land acquisition and land use change, if done in many other states, it may be possible to get similar results too on the ground of presence of multiple laws and policies for acquisition of land or conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural land.

Situation in Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 will allow industrialists and private developers to easily purchase as much agricultural land as they want for non-agricultural activities. Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 — required diversion of agriculture land for non-agriculture purpose before it could be purchased by private parties. The ordinance entails the buyer “to intimate in writing the competent authority within 90 days from the date of acquisition that he shall get his land diverted to non-agricultural purpose”.

Such a move again endangers agricultural productivity and is against the norms specified for protection of agricultural land in RFCTLARR 2013.

Situation in Bihar

As per the new land acquisition policy of the Government of Bihar, instead of acquiring land directly, it will act as a link between buyers and sellers. Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) would put the details on its website showing the price quoted by the farmers concerned. There is no proven efficacy of this model and may be used to mislead farmers.

Situation in Uttar Pradesh

Authorities like Greater Noida Industrial Authority are directly negotiating with farmers and acquiring land. This is being done without proper notifications and public hearings even when the land is meant to be used in large scale projects like DMIC.

Situation in Assam

The State Govt. termed the RFCTLARR (Amendment) ordinance, 2014 as anti-farmer and proposed to bring its own bill for acquisition. In 2015, the govt. has tabled the draft rules as per the RFCTLARR, 2013 act and majorly in line with the central rules expect few.

Situation in Punjab

According to Punjab Reclamation of Land Act 1959 State Government can reclaim any area comprising waste land and the intervening cultivated lands by notification and if required by force. The definition of wastelands is open to interpretation as such land is used as community land and used as pastures. The clause of acquiring intervening cultivated lands is also unfair.

Situation in Meghalaya

“No separate state policy existed in the state of Meghalaya for Rehabilitation and Resettlement of project affected families” stated in the Draft Final Report EIA, EMP, R & P of Hydro Power Project in Umngot. Compensation against the land acquisition has been given in accordance to Old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as per below described acts.

Meghalaya falls under Sixth Schedule and protects the land in the interest of Scheduled Tribes from alienation under The Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971. Under this no land is transferrable without the consent of individual and even after application to sell or for acquisition by individual to take sanction from the competent authority for the same is required.

Land Acquisition (companies) Rules, 1963 also protects the agricultural land specifically from conversion along with its adherence to The Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971.

As per the media reports, Mr. R. C. Laloo, The Deputy chief Minister has opposed the RFCTLARR, 2013 on the ground that being under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution; land in the state belongs to the individuals and not the Government. Whereas he also supported for a strong law to protect the alienation and, to ensure the food security of the country.

Situation in Jharkhand

Compensation: calculated according to section 26-30 of the RTFCLARR act read with the frist schedule and will be paid to all parties whose land or other immovable property has been acquired. In rural areas, landowners will be paid 4 times the market rate and in urban areas, twice the market rate will be paid. SIA: Public Hearings to be conducted. RTFCLARR 2015 rules have detailed provisions for public hearings and filing objections. Penalty for refusal to give up land: None Role of local bodies (gram panchayat or urban local bodies): Ceiling on agricultural land acquired: No more than 2% of multi cropped irrigated land will be acquired in any district across the state according to the Jharkhand RTFCLARR 2015 rules.

No more than 1/4th of the total cultivated land (shudh boya kshetra) in any district will be acquired.


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