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Farmers need not suffer if land taken for development

The NDA government at the Centre has finally decided not to go ahead with the land ordinance, which was being opposed by the Opposition parties. The controversial ordinance lapsed on Monday.

analysis Updated: Aug 31, 2015 23:03 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
land ordinance,farmers,NDA goveernment

The NDA government at the Centre has finally decided not to go ahead with the land ordinance, which was being opposed by the Opposition parties. The controversial ordinance lapsed on Monday. The BJP is saying it has taken a step backward in the interest of farmers while the Congress leaders say it is their victory.

There were different opinions over the NDA’s land ordinance but the fact is that there were strong reactions from farmers over certain provisions of the proposed land bill and many in the BJP too were finding it difficult to defend the same. Ahead of the crucial Bihar assembly polls, the BJP has decided to let the ordinance lapse.

This would have had a major impact in Maharashtra, where a large number of infrastructure projects are being taken over and the industry is also showing interest in setting up plants.

It is true that the difficulty in acquiring land has been a major obstacle in timely completion of projects and the infrastructure projects have been the biggest casualty because of the same. The expansion of Mumbai-Goa Road is a classic example. The highway is virtually a two-lane road at several places. The Maharashtra government is keen to turn it into a four-lane road with a divider in-between to prevent accidents that lead to loss of lives every day. However, landowners especially the farmers are not willing to sell their land and the expansion is getting delayed.

At the same time, we cannot ignore what happened in the name of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Maharashtra. Several builders and corporate groups acquired land and nothing was built on the same. Sometime ago, the government even changed its SEZ policy to allow them to use the land for purposes other than what they had mentioned, while getting permission for the SEZ. If one takes a look at about a dozen or so SEZs that were to come up around Mumbai, one would come to know why the SEZ projects were being seen with suspicion. Most SEZ developers look more like real estate developers than creating export-oriented zones or promoting manufacturing or economic activities.

Land owners, especially farmers in the state generally, don’t have anything other than their land to rely on for livelihood. If the government wants to acquire their land for projects, why shouldn’t it give them handsome compensation? Similarly, if any private companies or developers want land for their commercial ventures, why can’t they buy it from the farmers at the market rate?

When it comes to land, the fact is that the people don’t trust governments as they think the politicians and bureaucrats can be influenced by the industrialists or builders who are eying their land.

No government or political party has been able to change this impression. That is why it is not surprising that farmers were looking at NDA government’s ordinance with skepticism and finally the latter had to reconsider its stand. Let’s hope the farmers in Maharashtra, who are already in distress over agrarian crisis, get satisfactory compensation for the land acquired for highways or power plants or industrial corridors. In fact, the policy adopted by the Cidco in Navi Mumbai—to make the farmers partners in the development—could be a better option not just for the government but even private sector.

First Published: Aug 31, 2015 23:02 IST