FI­NAL CHECKS, MR RAMESH

The much de­bated Land Ac­qui­si­tion Bill is likely to be placed be­fore Par­lia­ment this ses­sion. A few wor­ries

Tehelka - - ASSAM -

HE RIGHT to Fair Com­pen­sa­tion, Re­set­tle­ment, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Trans­parency in Land Ac­qui­si­tion Bill will reach the Union Cab­i­net next week. It has passed the scru­tiny of a House panel and a Group of Min­is­ters ( GOM). Nei­ther Ru­ral Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jairam Ramesh, who shaped it, nor GoM head Sharad Pawar, who cleared it, re­vealed the con­tours of the fi­nal con­sen­sus, but it is learnt that the con­tentious con­sent clause is back to 80 per­cent.

While the in­dus­try is up­set over what it calls un­re­al­is­tic terms for con­sent and land cost, the weak­nesses of this wellmean­ing Bill may lie else­where. In fact, the ap­par­ently in­flated land value — two to four times the mar­ket price de­pend­ing on the plot’s prox­im­ity to ur­ban ar­eas — may still be be­low the ac­tual mar­ket price, which is far above the government cir­cle

Trates or reg­is­tra­tion val­ues of sim­i­lar plots in the re­cent past.

It is no se­cret that reg­is­tra­tions are usu­ally done at ab­surdly low prices to save on stamp duty and to keep the black money in cir­cu­la­tion. So in cities, even af­ter a 100 per­cent so­latium, the land value for ac­qui­si­tion is likely to re­main lower than the ac­tual mar­ket price. If any­thing, the buyer can only crib about hav­ing to pay a near­mar­ket price en­tirely in white money.

Then again, the de­bate over con­sent — whether two-thirds or 80 per­cent of landown­ers should agree to al­low ac­qui­si­tion — misses a cru­cial point. As projects keep get­ting big­ger, the num­ber of af­fected of­ten runs into thou­sands and across many vil­lages. Un­less the pro­posed 80 (or 67) per­cent con­sent is sought sep­a­rately from ev­ery af­fected gram sabha or the small­est lo­cal demo­cratic body, the very pur­pose of seek­ing con­sent may be de­feated.

Con­sider the POSCO project in Odisha. The pro­posed plant af­fects some 22,000 landown­ers in seven vil­lages. Dhinkia, the cen­tre of re­sis­tance where not even 10 per­cent agree to ac­qui­si­tion, has a pop­u­la­tion of around 4,000. Now, hy­po­thet­i­cally, if the other six vil­lages agree to trade their land, should vil­lagers in Dhinkia be forced to give up theirs?

The com­pen­sa­tion pre­scribed in the Bill is gen­er­ous. But there is the dan­ger of

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