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.

Tehelka - - 20 - SHOMA CHAUD­HURY

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

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