Every year, 10,000 hectares of fertile and irrigated land — almost the size of Chandigarh — is acquired for non-agricultural purposes in Punjab, according to the Punjab State Farmers’ Commission (PSFC).
In the past 10 years, about 1 lakh hectares of agricultural land was acquired for non-agricultural purposes such as housing projects and industrial units. This was a double-cropped land, adding more than 6-7 lakh tonnes of foodgrain production in the state.
To find out the condition of farmers whose land was acquired for non-agricultural uses in the past decade, the commission recently conducted a study based on a primary survey of 300 farmers of 15 villages of Bathinda, Mansa, SAS Nagar and Tarn Taran districts. The commission conducted the study to know the extent of fertile irrigated land going for non-agricultural uses every year, the present economic condition of those whose land was acquired, how they utilised the land compensation funds and whether land acquisition affected their children’s education positively or otherwise.
“As far as the present condition of these farmers is concerned, the study finds that a majority of them now own more agricultural land than they had before acquisition,” Dr Gurcharan Singh Kalkat, PSFC chairman, informed chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in a detailed letter dated May 22.
The farmers whose land was acquired in the past decade were given compensation par acre, higher than the prevailing market price of land in the area.
The farmers spent more than 95% of the land compensation “for useful purposes ” such as buying agricultural land/ machinery, house construction/ renovation, repaying outstanding loans etc. “The expenditure on marriages, social ceremonies and buying of jeeps or cars etc constitute only around 2% of the total funds.
Thus, there has been no largescale misuse of funds received and by and large the farmers have managed their funds rather wisely,” said Dr Kalkat, who has been working as the first chairman of the PSFC since June 2005, advising the government on various policy issues concerning farmers and farming.
As per the study, around 5% households — small and marginal farmers — have also become “landless” due to acquisition of their land as they “did not buy any agricultural land. “They are now working as agricultural labourers,” Dr Kalkat informed the CM.
KIDS OF 8% FARMERS DROPPED OUT
The sudden availability of huge funds had an adverse impact on the children of 8% of the farmers in question as they “dropped out of schools.”
The commission has recommended that the farmers be given compensation at least double the actual market price prevailing in that area and not the price arrived at by taking an average of sales deeds in the area which are registered at circle rates. The circle rates are generally much lower than the actual market price.
The commission has stated that circle rates should be brought on a par with the market price while stamp duty rates can be lowered correspondingly. “It will eliminate the menace of black money in land deals,” it said.
The commission has also advised the government to pay “some compensation” to non-agriculturists such as agricultural labourers etc. residing in the village where land is acquired as they earn their livelihood from the agricultural economy of the village. This can help them in relocating themselves at alternative sites.