Land revenue officials such as kanungos and patwaris can now sit idle, as their job to demarcate and evaluate land required for public-utility projects has been privatised.
The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) has tied up with a private company, Tila Zanders, which even drafts the public notifications for imposing various Sections of the Land Acquisition Act and negotiates with farmers to assist the authority in case of dispute over assessment or compensation.
The company also has statutory powers required for taking possession of the entire land record of any village to exercise its clout for demarking the land till the process of handing it over to GMADA under Section 9 for the mega projects is not over.
"Delineating the project boundary with land-record maps in the field; preparation of reply to every objection (from land holders and under Section 5A); survey and evaluation of structures, houses, buildings and trees on the land to be acquired; updating land record with the help of patwaris; and seeking clearances from the deputy commissioner or other departments" are some of the tasks assigned to the company in an agreement signed in August 2012.
In return, the company gets Rs 29,763 per acre. GMADA additional chief administrator (ACA) Manjit Singh Brar clarified: "It's only the leg work that has been outsourced. The signing authority remains the LAC (land acquisition collector attached with GMADA)." Brar also cited the "shortage of revenue staff" and the "delays in the land acquisition procedures" as reasons for outsourcing the work.
Is it legal?
The issue remains if the statutory functions under the Land Acquisition Act can be delegated or outsourced.
Under the statute, the government functionaries who can follow up the task or assist the LAC in land acquisition are the revenue officials concerned, including the 'halqa' (area) patwaris and 'halqa' kanungos attached with the district administration at the tehsil level.
Under Section 4 of the Act, it is the LAC's duty to issue a public notice, and all the acts (including the "legwork", as explained by the ACA) to implement may be followed by an officer "authorised by the government" to carry out land acquisition.
The imposition of Section 5A (hearing of public objections, if any) and section 6 (2) (final intent of the government to acquire the land) are the statutory functions of the LAC that only a government functionary can follow up.
'Taking cue from the NHAI'
"The entire scenario is changing, as even public-sector giants such as the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) are outsourcing the land-acquisition work, said ACA Manjit Singh Brar.
Tila Zanders acquires land for various GMADA projects such as the 400-acre plan in Hoshiarpur; Eco City- 2 in Mullanpur, Mohali district; and the Landran-Banur highway. The Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA) is also to outsource the land-acquisition work to the company for the upcoming Ludhiana international airport.
What the firm says
Tila Zanders chief executive officer (CEO) Kirti Bath said the firm had the services of kanungos and revenue patwaris who retired from the state government service, and they had the assistance of subordinates".
The "subordinates" here are the task force of "illegal patwaris" mentioned in HT's Saturday's report. "We also have a wing of engineers, software professionals, AutoCAD experts, and draftsmen," Bath added. These wings, he said, were supported and administered by the officers who had retired from various departments of the Punjab government.
(For details read hindustantimes)