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Ashok Das, Hindustan Times
Hyderabad, July 17, 2012
Here is a cautionary tale for governments that fail to pay compensation to farmers for acquiring their land. A district court in Mahbubnagar, nearly 100 km from Hyderabad, has ordered the administration to auction its Nizam-era collectorate building to pay a family that has been waiting for justice for 22 years.

In 1987, the state government had acquired 3.4 acres from Satoor Balaiah for a housing scheme. The compensation fixed was Rs. 11 lakh, which the family had not accepted. Balaiah finally moved court in 1990. But despite a court order in 1996 for higher compensation – Rs. 119 lakh -- the government failed to pay up the full amount. Result — the hub of the district administration now has to be auctioned by August 22, to raise the Rs. 49 lakh still owed.

“I specially requested the court to give an order for the auction of the Collectorate building, because it is a landmark and a symbol of power,” said K Pratap Kumar, the family’s lawyer. “I wanted the message to sink in.”

Even today, there are hundreds of families from Mahboobnagar whose lands were acquired in 1975 for Nagarjunasagar dam, but they have not received compensation, Kumar added.

Sadly, Balaiah is no longer around to see the day, said his widow, 72-year-old Satur Yellamma. And her own health is failing.

Despite Kumar and Yellamma’s hopes to the contrary, the order is a technicality for the administration.

“This is the first time a court has ordered the auctioning of an immoveable asset,” said a senior revenue official at Hyderabad’s state secretariat. “We have advised the collector to take steps to get a stay against the order. Then we will move the finance department to get special sanction for the compensation amount. We will release the payment and get the case dropped.”