This is a fight between those who can think straight and those who can’t
The industry’s concerns should not be allowed to dilute the Land Acquisition Bill blueprint.
THE CONCEPT of fair play is clearly a dying idea among India’s elite. Nothing captures this more than the ongoing tussle over the Land Acquisition Bill and the dismal inability of the UPA- 2 government — specifically the prime minister and some in his Cabinet — to respond to any policy change from a position of strong and clear ethical principles.
As I write this, 50 villagers in Madhya Pradesh have been standing neck deep in water for 12 days, desperately protesting the rising of the waters in the Omkareshwar Dam, which will submerge their fields — fields they legitimately own — and leave them destituted. They symbolise millions of other development refugees — Indians summarily kicked off their land in the name of the nation’s progress — who are still waiting for justice. After the high-voltage protests at Singur, Nandigram, Niyamgiri, Bhatta-Parsaul, etc., one would have supposed at least the base rules of the game would have been established by now: if you covet that which others possess, you need to ask nicely and pay fairly. And remember, they always have the right to refuse. This can’t seem rocket science: it should be elementary human logic in a modern democracy.
In drafting the new Bill, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh tried to walk some distance down this path. He rechristened it the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act. Given that none of these provisions were mandatory — or even existed — earlier, merely correcting the language and enshrining the idea of “rights” was itself an important step. He also notched other milestones: buyers would have to pay four times the market rate for rural land, twice the rate for urban land; no multi-crop agricultural land could be taken over