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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:28 pm 
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New rules for seizing land

http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/may/law-land.htm

Land acquisitions have raised a number of concerns related to fair compensation, valuation of land, definition of 'public purpose' and other issues. As the government moves to amend the Land Acquisition Act, Priya Parker and Sarita Vanka present a legislative brief on the proposed changes.


HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL
(Read this section in detail)


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The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 amends The Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
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The Bill redefines 'public purpose' as land acquired for defence purposes, infrastructure projects, or for any project useful to the general public where 70 per cent of the land has already been purchased. The Bill bars acquisition for companies except under the 70 per cent condition.
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This page is organised as follows: The highlights of the Bill and the key issues to be considered are listed briefly first; the details of each are presented thereafter. Click here to see the highlights in detail, and here to see the detailed analysis of key issues.
For acquisition resulting in large-scale displacement, a social impact assessment study must be conducted. Tribals, forest dwellers, and those with tenancy rights are also eligible for compensation.
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Acquisition costs will include payment for loss or damages to land, and costs related to resettlement of displaced residents.
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While determining compensation, the intended use of land and value of such land in the current market is to be considered.
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The Bill establishes the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority at the state and central levels to adjudicate disputes resulting from land acquisition proceedings.

KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
(Read this section in detail)


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The Bill bars the jurisdiction of civil courts on all matters related to land acquisition. It is unclear whether there is a mechanism by which a person may challenge the qualification of a project as 'public purpose.'
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The Settlement Authority is a judicial body but could be entirely staffed by members without judicial qualifications or experience.
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When acquired land is resold, the original acquirer is to distribute 80% of the capital gains to the original owners or their heirs. This implies that every acquirer must track the original owners and their heirs in perpetuity. Also, the resale price of land may be difficult to compute when it is part of a larger deal in which a company is taken over.
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Companies have to offer part of compensation as shares or debentures. Unlike shares, debentures do not provide the land owner with a share of the profits of the project.
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The Bill makes special provisions for compensation if land is acquired under 'urgency'. The term 'urgency' is not defined.

PART A: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL [1]

Context

Land acquisition refers to the process by which the government forcibly acquires private property for public purpose without the consent of the land owner, which is different from a market purchase of land. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 addresses the process of land acquisition in India and was last amended by the Land Acquisition Amendment Act, 1984. The Act takes a broad definition of 'public purpose' permitting a diverse range of projects. A number of Supreme Court cases have highlighted concerns related to fair compensation, valuation of land, definition of 'public purpose' and other issues related to land acquisition. [2] Citing problems with the principal Act, the government recently introduced the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007.

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 amends the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. It expands the rights of those displaced by land acquisition, and limits the ability to acquire land for public purpose. The Bill also establishes the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority at the state and national levels to arbitrate all disputes resulting from land acquisition proceedings. This Bill was introduced in conjunction with the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 to address land acquisition, compensation, and resettlement of displaced persons.

Key features

Public Purpose

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The principal Act permits land acquisition if the land is to be used for a 'public purpose' project. 'Acquisition' refers to forcibly obtaining land without consent of the land owner. 'Public purpose' includes land needed for village-sites, town or rural planning, land for residential purposes for poor or displaced due to natural calamities, land for planned development (including education, housing, health and slum clearance), or land needed by a state corporation. The Bill changes 'public purpose' to allow land acquisition only for (i) strategic naval, military, or air force purposes, (ii) public infrastructure projects, or (iii) for any purpose useful to the general public where 70% of the land has already been purchased from willing sellers through the free market.
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The Bill defines 'infrastructure' as any project relating to electricity, construction of roads, highways, bridges, airports, rail, mining activities, water supply, sanitation and sewerage, and any other notified public facility.
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Currently, private land may be acquired on behalf of a company for a 'public purpose' project. The Bill prohibits land acquisition for companies unless they have already purchased 70% of the land needed.

Social Impact Assessment Study

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If land acquisition results in the displacement of 400 families in the plains or 200 families in the hills or tribal areas, the government must conduct a social impact assessment. The study will include the effects of displacement, a Tribal Development Plan, and provisions for infrastructure development in resettlement areas.

Process for Land Acquisition

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'Appropriate government' is determined by the location of the acquired land and the intended project. The principal Act gives jurisdiction over land acquired for Union purposes to the central government and for any other projects to the state government. This Bill includes multi-state land acquisition projects as central government jurisdiction.
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To identify land needed for a public project, the government must issue a notification. The notification must be published in the Official Gazette and in two daily newspapers circulating in that locality. After a notification is published, the government is authorised to conduct work on the land to determine its suitability for an intended project. Any objections must be registered with the Collector's office.
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If the land is suitable, the government must issue a declaration stating the land will be used for public purpose. The declaration must be issued within one year of notification; otherwise a fresh notification cannot be made for an additional year. If this time expires again, notification cannot be issued for five years. No individual shall make transactions or encumbrances on notified land until the final declaration is made or compensation is paid.
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The Bill states acquisition costs will include suffering or loss, payment for damages to the land during acquisition, cost of land needed for displaced residents, cost of infrastructure development at resettlement sites, and administrative costs of acquisition and resettlement. These costs must be borne by the entity acquiring the land.
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The Collector must make details of the land acquisition process, including compensation amounts, publicly available.

Assessing Market Value of the Land

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In the principal Act, the Collector only needs to determine the current price value of the land for compensation amounts. The Bill requires the Collector to take the highest value of: (i) the minimum land value for the area as specified in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899; (ii) the average sale price of at least 50% of the higher priced sales of similar land in the village or vicinity; or (iii) the average sale price of at least 50% of the higher priced land purchased for the project. The value of trees, plants, or standing crops damaged must also be included.
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In the event that a price is not available or the land is in an area where land sales have been previously restricted, the state government shall set the floor price per unit of land. This price will be determined by average prices of at least 50% of the higher priced land in the vicinity.
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While determining compensation, the Collector must also factor in the intended use of the land and the value of such land in the current market.

Compensation

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In the principal Act, the term 'person interested' includes those who are claiming land compensation and those interested in an easement (limited right of use of the land) on the land. The Bill proposes to expand the definition to include tribal and other traditional forest dwellers who have lost any traditional rights as well as individuals with tenancy rights under state law.
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In addition, if any damages are incurred on land excluded from acquisition proceedings, the appropriate owner must be compensated within six months.
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Payment for acquired land must be made within one year from the date of the declaration. The Collector can extend this time limit by six months with a penalty of 5% per month. If payment has not been made within one year nor has the Collector granted an extension, the land acquisition proceedings shall lapse.
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After the compensation amount is determined, the Collector must ensure that payment occurs within 60 days. Possession of land shall not be taken unless full compensation is paid or tendered to the land owner.
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Land owners whose property has been acquired under urgency shall be compensated an additional 75% of the market value of the land.
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If the acquisition is for a company, shares or debentures of 20-50% of the compensation amount must be offered through these options. The interested person may either accept this offer or opt for a full cash settlement.

Restrictions on Acquired Land

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Land acquired can be transferred only for a public purpose and with prior approval from the appropriate government.
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Acquired land that is unused for 5 years from the date of possession shall be returned to the appropriate government.
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Whenever acquired land is transferred to another individual, 80% of the difference between the consideration received and the original acquisition cost shall be shared among the original land owners and their heirs.

Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authorities

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Currently, all land acquisition cases are referred to civil courts for a decision. The Bill establishes the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority at both the state and national levels to adjudicate all land acquisition disputes within six months. The Bill gives these Authorities the same powers as a civil court and deems all proceedings of the Authorities as judicial proceedings. The government may form more Authorities or benches.
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In the event of a dispute, the land owner must file a written complaint with the Collector. The Collector shall refer any dispute cases to the Authority within 15 days from the receipt of the complaint. If the Collector fails to act, the land owner may petition the Authority directly to request the Collector to file the reference within 30 days.
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If the Authority decides in favour of the land owner, they shall award compensation for (i) market value of the land, (ii) property damages, (iii) damages to the land owner, (iv) damages to the land owner's salary, movable, or immovable property, (v) expenses incurred by the owner for change or residence or business, and (vi) any damages resulting in a loss of profits from the time of declaration to possession of the land. In the Act, the Authority awards a sum of 12% of market value from the publication of notification to the date of possession or compensation paid. Furthermore, the land owner receives an additional sum of 30% of the market value. The Bill increases this sum to 60% of market value.

PART B: KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS


Public Purpose

The Bill changes the definition of public purpose to include projects for strategic defence, infrastructure, and contiguity purposes. Table 1 shows how other countries define pubic purpose in cases of land acquisition.

Table 1: Definition of Public Purpose in Other Countries

Country Act & Year Definition / Some Circumstances
China Land Administration Law, Article 21 (1988) Economic, cultural, national defence construction projects, public works projects
Brazil The Constitution, Article 5, 182 & 184 (1988) Public use, social interest, or for purposes of agrarian reform of rural property which is not performing its social function
Mexico The Expropriations Law (1936) Infrastructure development, conservation of history or culture, national security, public benefit, equitable distribution of wealth preservation ecological balance and natural resources
South Africa Expropriation Act, No 63, Definitions Article 2 (1975) Public purpose and certain other purposes if the purpose is connected with the administration of the provisions of any law by an organ of State
US The Constitution, 5th Amendment, existing case law including Kelo v City of New London, 2005 Private property can be taken for public use; has been interpreted to include property development
UK Town and Country Planning Act (1990) Planning and public purposes if it is suitable for and required for development, redevelopment or improvement; or is required for a purpose which it is necessary to achieve in the interest of proper planning of an area
Singapore The Land Acquisition Act, Section 5 (1966) Public purpose, by any person, corporation, or statutory board for public benefit or public interest projects, or for any residential, commercial or industrial purposes

Sources: Land Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China, Article 21; The Constitution of Brazil, Articles 5, 182, 184; The Expropriations Law of Mexico; South Africa Expropriation Act, No 63, Definitions & Article 2; The US Constitution, Amendment 5; Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut,, No. 04-108, US Supreme Court; The UK Town and Country Planning Act, Part IX, 226; Singapore Land Acquisition Act, Section 5.

SEZ Standing Committee Recommendations


The Standing Committee on Commerce submitted its report on The Functioning of Special Economic Zones in June 2007. [3] The report includes recommendations related to both land acquisition and compensation.

Table 2: Comparison of Standing Committee Recommendations and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007

Issue SEZ Standing Committee Recommendations Land Acquisition Bill
Verification of land State government and gram panchayat should verify type of land and hold a public notice for objections to the stated type of land to prevent manipulation of land records No specific public process stated; Collector is responsible for ‘updating of land records, classification of land and its tenure, survey and standardization of land and property values’
Type of land Use only waste and barren lands for SEZs; only in unavoidable situations use single-crop, rain-fed land; ban use of double or multi-crop irrigated land No mention
Limitations on land Prevent developers from acquiring more land than necessary by prescribing maximum area for various types of SEZs and 50% of area should be used as “processing area” No specific limitations stated; land unused for 5 years shall return to the appropriate government
Consent of landholders With the exception of land acquisition for national security, the affected parties should give their consent Owners of notified land may file an objection with the Collector within 30 days of notification; the appropriate government shall decide on all objections; rehabilitation plans shall be discussed in the gram sabhas
Inform affected persons Land acquisition law should inform affected persons of the purpose for acquisition, its implications, and resettlement provisions Land acquisition proceedings and compensation details shall be available publicly; rehabilitation plan shall be created in consultation with affected families and circulated publicly
Unused land or failed projects Lease the land so land owners receive a lump sum and periodic rent. If SEZ fails or dissolves, land goes back to the original owner No provision for leasing of land; land unused for 5 years shall return to the appropriate government
Land ownership Land should be leased to the developer, even if the state government acquires the land If 70% of land is already purchased, company can acquire 30% if project is for ‘public purpose’
Calculation of compensation Compensation should be calculated on prevailing market rates Compensation based on market rates, intended use of the land, standing crops, and the higher average of either neighbouring property, land purchased for the project, or minimum value from sale deeds
Market rates State governments should devise a system of periodic market surveys to determine periodic market rates Collector to determine market value based on minimum land value in the Indian Stamp Act, average sale price for similar type of land in the vicinity, and any land acquired for the same project
Shares in company Offer equity shares in the developers company Acquiring companies can offer land owners 20-50% of compensation amount in shares or debentures

Sources: ‘Functioning of Special Economic Zones’, Standing Committee on Commerce, June 2007; The Land Acquisition Act and Amendment Bill.

Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority

Civil Jurisdiction - The Bill grants the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority the powers of a civil court. The Authority consists of 2-3 persons with the qualification of either a district court judge, an officer of at least District Collector rank, or an officer of at least Director rank in the state government's law department. Three issues arise from this composition.

First, this Authority is a judicial body but could be entirely staffed by members without judicial qualifications or experience. Second, this could also lead to a situation where a state government official decides on a case in which the state government (as acquirer) is the defendant. Third, this provision may be unconstitutional as the Constitution separates the executive and the judiciary. The Competition Commission of India was formed in 2002 but not operationalised due to a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court. The petition challenged the Commission's powers, which were both judicial and regulatory. In response to the writ petition, the central government introduced an amendment to the Competition Act, 2002 establishing separate regulatory and adjudicatory bodies.[4]

Civil courts are barred from entertaining any disputes or issuing any injunctions relating to land acquisition. With the barring of civil jurisdiction, it is unclear whether there is a mechanism by which a party may challenge the qualification of a project as 'public purpose.'

Compensation

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Percentage of Sale Deeds used to compute market value: The Bill prescribes three criteria to determine the market value of the land and requires the Collector to adopt the highest of the three computed values. The criteria refer to recently concluded sale prices for similar land, ascertained from "not less than 50%" of the transactions, "where higher price has been paid". This clause is ambiguous. If the intention is that the average should be taken from the highest priced 50% transactions, taking a larger proportion of transactions would include lower priced ones, and would reduce the average value.
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With the barring of civil jurisdiction, it is unclear whether there is a mechanism by which a party may challenge the qualification of a project as 'public purpose.'


• No duty to rehabilitate
• A history of injustice and abuse
• Not just a place to live
• A familiar battle at Tadadi
Compensation as shares or debentures: The Bill requires the company to offer shares 'or debentures1.' By accepting shares, the land owner may be able to participate in any significant benefit to the company from the project. However, if the land owner accepts debentures, he receives only a fixed return; he is effectively lending money to the company to purchase his own land.

Land Resold by Acquiring Body


Under the Bill, if the acquired land is resold, the acquiring entity must calculate the difference between the new sale price and the original acquiring price. The entity is required to distribute 80% of this difference to the original land owners or their heirs. There could be three distinct issues while implementing this clause.

First, the Bill does not set a specific time limit for the application of this clause after the original acquisition. Therefore, the acquirer must keep track of the original owners and their heirs in perpetuity so that they can be paid in case of a future sale. Second, the new sale price of the land may be difficult to calculate if it is part of a larger deal. For example, if the original purchase was for a project undertaken by a corporate entity and this entire corporate is taken over by new owners, it may not be feasible to calculate the price paid for this particular piece of land. Third, in cases in which the company has invested in developing the land it is not clear whether the original acquisition price would be adjusted upwards for the cost of development.

Urgency

The Bill makes special provisions for land taken in the case of 'urgency.' However, neither the Bill nor the principal Act defines the term 'urgency.' A Karnataka government circular in 1967 noted, "Government have observed that, of late, there is a steady increase in the number of proposals that are being received from the Deputy Commissioners recommending for invoking the urgency clause for land acquisition, on the ground that a particular irrigation project, formation of a road, construction of tank etc., has to be executed according to the time schedule fixed.

In this connection, it may be stressed that the power of dispensing with the provisions of Section 5A of the L.A. Act cannot be arbitrarily exercised."[5] Similarly, a ruling in a case at the High Court of Mysore noted, "Provision of [the urgency clause] can be issued only in exceptional cases in which the case is so urgent that the time that is likely to be spent for the hearing directed by [the urgency clause] would produce such harm or public mischief, that a direction dispensing that hearing is imperative."[5] The lack of a clear definition for 'urgency' could lead to confusion and misuse of this provision.

Unused Land

Acquired land that is unused for 5 years shall be returned to the appropriate government. This clause helps deter acquisition of land unless it is required in the immediate term. However, it may not provide such disincentive for cases in which the land is being acquired for a government project.

Easement

Both the principal Act and the Bill state that a 'person interested in an easement affecting the land' shall be considered a 'person interested.' The term 'easement' is not defined in this Bill or in the Act. It is defined in the Indian Easement Act, 1882 and the Limitation Act, 1963 but the definitions are significantly different in these two Acts. This could lead to ambiguity during implementation.[6]

Financial Estimates


The Bill requires the establishment of authorities at the central and state levels to settle compensation disputes. The financial memorandum does not provide estimates of the funding requirement for these authorities.

Priya Parker and Sarita Vanka
19 May 2008

Priya Parker and Sarita Vanka are researchers with PRS Legislative Research, a unit of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. PRS is an independent initiative to make the process of law-making in India more transparent, better informed and participatory.


Notes

1.

This Brief has been written on the basis of the Land Acquisition (Amendment), 2007, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 6, 2007 and referred to the Standing Committee on Rural Development (Chairperson: Shri Kalyan Singh). The Standing Committee is scheduled to submit its report within three months.
2.

Civil Appeal No. 1137 of 2007, Nelson Fernandes vs. Special Land Acquisition Officer, Goa (2007), Viluben Jhalejar Contractor vs. State of Gujarat (2007), Numaligarh Refinery Ltd vs. Green View Tea & Industries Ltd (2007), and Pratibha Nema vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (2007).
3.

"Functioning of Special Economic Zones", Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, June 20, 2007.
4.

Writ Petition (civil) No 409 of 2003, Brahm Dutt vs. Union of India.
5.

"Subject: Acquisition of lands under the urgency clause of the Land Acquisition Act - Instructions regarding." See this link
6.

The Indian Easement Act defines easement as "a right which the owner or occupier of certain land possesses, as such, for the beneficial enjoyment of that land, to do and continue to do something, or to prevent and continue to prevent something being done, in or upon, or in respect of, certain other land not his own." The Limitation Act states: "Easement includes a right not arising from contract, by which one person is entitled to remove and appropriate for his own profit any part of the soil belonging to another or anything growing in, or attached to, or subsisting upon, the land of another."

Comments (12)

* Posted by gandhi,

If a land is acquired then are the khata & other government records changed immediately? Can they be changed again without any amendments?

* Posted by nilesh chawda,

An excellent analysis - land is platinum of this century and the escalation of land price is order of the day. Hats off to you.

* Posted by Mitesh Damania,

Maybe we should start seizing the land under corporate factories?

* Posted by Prashant Sudhakar Khaire,

Our's 30 acres land is acquired for "Forest department" in 1953.

It was in District Pune, Taluka Bhor, State Maharashtra, India.

We have not taken a compensation which was given by government. We want our land back or seperate land (may be less)what should we do. Please guide.

* Posted by ramalingam,

my land was acquired by the Pondicherry government to set up SEZ under urgent class. But the compensation was calculate as normal LA procedure in 2007 and the compensation 80% was given in 2007 balance 20 was given in 2008. we can claim the compensation under new act. till date award copy was not given to land owners or refered to the court under 18 reference . letter was given with in time to refer to the court- Kindly clarify for my quries
tanking you
ramalingam
pondicherry

* Posted by Priyanka,

What happens to land which was acquired 45 years back and has not been taken back by the government and is still in the possession of the company? Plz suggest.

* Posted by udaya shankar,

It is an excellent analytical report. Thanks to the authors. Now that the bill is still kept pending, the old act with what ever subsequent provisions for the companies continues to be valid. If the current Lok sabha can not pass the amendment bill,it will lapse. Things get back to square no.1.

Just out of academic interest, one likes to know What happened to the report from the standing committee on rural development? What are their recommendations? It would be interesting to know the compensation packages including R&R being offered to the original land owners in other counties.

Question: Can land acquisition act be used to acquire land from companies who indulged in frauds? That serves best of the public purposes(!),taking advantage of the vagueness in the definition of "public purpose". Such lands from Companies can be distributed to the landless or restored back to the original land owners.

* Posted by nagendra,

give more information about barren land related to village and captured by illegal
means by an indivisual.

* Posted by rakesh kumar jain,

god bless u for this noble work..great article. sir our few acres were acquired by santra cruz airport by union of india in 1953 yet compensation dispute is going on as they are offering very low...the land is still unused n not utilised for the purpose it was acquired..can we claim back our land? and is the compensation allowed with compound interst as delay is from government side?

* Posted by Veera Shanmugham,

The Corporation Authority has plans for acquiring land from our family property for the purpose of road widening. We have donated for this purpose twice earlier to the local municipal bodies. This time the widening scheme would remove our commercial building completely. Is there a possibility to prevent the acquisition or at least claim compensation for the damages?

* Posted by dilip savalia,

God bless u for this noble work ... great article. Our few acres were acquired for housing purpose by gujarat housing board in 1986 yet compensation dispute is going on as they are offering very low ... the land is still unused and not utilised for the purpose it was acquired. Can we claim back our land? Who is the competent authority ? And is the compensation allowed with compound interest as delay is from government side?

* Posted by Wg Cdr I D Soans,

I have a site bought from a landowner in 2000. Now there is a road alignment/widening going on and the compound wall slabs have been removed without any notice to me. There is a threat to demolish one of the shops/ andl also offers to adjust indirectly by the engineer/contractor. What can
I do?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:38 pm 
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SINGUR TATA FACTORY FALLOUT
"I need my land, not money."


http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/jul/agr-singur.htm

Deprived of their lands, unable to find any kind of work, the female sharecroppers of Singur are today looking at bleak days ahead. Government compensation may come, but it may be too little and a poor substitute for a life-sustaining livelihood. Aparna Pallavi has more.

11 July 2007 - Till about a year back, 50-year-old Shankari Bagal had never known want. She lost her husband many years back, and some four years back her son also died, leaving behind a wife and three small children. But Shankari and her daughter-in-law had together continued to earn a decent living by cultivating the four bighas (local measure - three bighas is roughly equal to one acre) of rich four-crop land that they were sharecropping. (Landowner allows sharecroppers to cultivate the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land.)

The roof, as it were, came crashing over Shankari's head when this land acquired by Tata for its now infamous car factory at Singur. "I used to always have heaps of paddy in my court yard," says Shankari. "We used to take two crops of paddy, apart from potatoes, vegetables and groundnuts. But now we have to think twice for every handful of rice we decide to cook."

Sharecropper Shankari Bagal with her family. Pic: Aparna Pallavi.

Women in Singur are no strangers to farming. Especially among sharecropping families, women and girls regularly participate in farming activities to save labour costs, and are as skilled in agricultural work as their male counterparts. "Since the law grants sharecroppers permanent cultivation rights in West Bengal, and since the rent for the land is also reasonable – 25 per cent of the produce, it is not uncommon for women to go on cultivating a piece of land successfully in case of the husband's death, and the family's economic status does not change very much due to the man's death," says Anuradha Talwar of the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti, an organisation of agricultural labourers.

But for the female sharecroppers of Singur, everything changed after the now wellknown Tata car project entered the scene. Along with some 12,000 land owners (numbers estimated by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation's status report on the Singur project), the land acquisition for the Tata factory has displaced a large number of unregistered sharecroppers out of livelihood. Government figures put the total number sharecroppers on the acquired land at 407, of which unregistered sharecroppers are 170. But estimates by organisations like the Nagrik Mancha and Sanhati Udyog put the numbers of unregistered sharecroppers at not less than 1,200 families, of which roughly 8 to ten per cent are women-headed households.

In Shankari's village of Dobandi alone, 90 families of unregistered sharecroppers have lost their livelihoods. Of these, 12 women-headed households have been the hardest hit, and seven such families in this village are now on the brink of starvation. One elderly woman, Bimala Khamaru, has already died of starvation.

"Employment is available anything between five and seven kilometres away. Older women like me cannot commute so far, and younger married women have children and homes to take care of."

Dobandi is located adjacent to the land acquired by the Tatas. The 90 families in the village are all landless, and had been sharecropping on land close to the village for generations. All of this land has now been acquired by Tata, leaving the villagers without a livelihood. While the men have found casual employment as agricultural labourers -- of course the wages are very low compared to what they earned as sharecroppers, the women have all been forced to remain home.

The reason is simple, says Satyabala Patra, who has also lost her three bighas of sharecropping land, "Employment is available anything between five and seven kilometres away. Older women like me cannot commute so far, and younger married women have children and homes to take care of." Satyabala's only daughter is now supporting her mother on a wage of Rs.30 per day, for which she has to commute 30 kms every day. "How will I ever get my daughter married?" she asks worriedly.

Durga Bairagi, aged 67, used to actively take part in the farming activities on her family's five bighas of sharecropping land along with her two sons and two daughters-in-law until the acquisition for the Tata project. "Our father-in-law died young, and she farmed the land and brought up her three children all by herself," says her daughter-in-law Jayanti. "Up until last year she used to go to the farm every day and supervise and keep track of every activity." But after the land was taken away, Durga is a skin-and-bone wreck. "We used to be five workers in our house," she says in a quavering voice, "but now only my two sons work. The Rs.80 per day that they earn after commuting 15 kms is not enough to feed our family of 12."

All these women, whose economic status has undergone such a drastic change due to the land acquisition, were originally not deemed eligible for any kind of compensation. As per the West Bengal government's status report on Singur, sharecroppers have to be paid 25 per cent of the total compensation for land, including crop compensation. But this compensation is reserved only for sharecroppers who are registered with the government. Says Swapan Ganguli of the Singur Krishi Jami Rakkha Committee, "According to the law sharecroppers in West Bengal have to be registered with the government. But given the excellent relations between land-owners and sharecroppers in the Singur area, many had not bothered to register themselves, and are now left with no support."

According to Ganguli, no proper survey of sharecroppers in the area was done before the land acquisition. "While the government's lie that most of the land was taken by consent was nailed after owners of 367 acres of land filed an affidavit in court stating that their land was taken without their consent, the bargadars, as sharecroppers are known in this area, were not consulted at all. Even the numbers of sharecroppers was heavily downplayed in the status report."

But the government's thinking seems to have evolved. The collector of Hooghli district, Binod Kumar, now says that the government is offering unregistered bargadars compensation at par with registered ones. He says that they are now conducting field inquiries, as there are no records. According to Kumar, around 360-370 unregistered bargadars have applied for compensation till date and they will be compensated at par with registered bargadars after the completion of field inquiries to confirm the authenticity of their claims. He expects the process to be completed in a month. No special provisions, he said, had been made for female-headed sharecropping families.

Artabal Das with her daughter. Pic: Aparna Pallavi.

Atrabala Das, another unregistered sharecropper, says that the economic difference made by the land acquisition is huge. Atrabala's two bighas of land used to yield 100 sacks (50 quintals) of potatoes every season, apart from paddy and vegetables. "Today, even a year after the land was taken, I have some paddy and potatoes left from our previous crop," says she, "I do not know what I and my daughter will do after that stock is finished."

Whether or not the unregistered female sharecroppers of Singur will finally get any kind of compensation will also depend heavily on how the political situation in the area will turn out. But do they want compensation in the first place?

Atrabala says that even if they were given compensation, the amounts would be too meagre. The government rate of compensation for land in Singur, after several revisions, stands at a little above Rs.8 lakhs per acre at present, which, according to locals, is substantially below the market price. Atrabala notes that a sharecropper will be entitled to just 25 per cent of this amount, which is too low to sustain them for the rest of their life. "I need my land, not money. It was the land that sustained us. If I had a son, I could have sent him anywhere to work. We would at least not have starved. But my daughter is young. How can I send her to work among strangers? How does the government expect us to survive? Should we all commit suicide?"

Deprived of their lands and livelihood, unable to find any kind of work, the female sharecroppers of Singur are today looking at bleak days ahead. ⊕

Aparna Pallavi
11 Jul 2007

Aparna Pallavi is a journalist based in Nagpur, and writes on development issues. She is working on 'The Feminine Face of the Vidarbha Agrarian Crisis' under a National Foundation for India fellowship.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:41 pm 
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CARGO HUB DEVOURS LAND
Milkmen of a dying village


http://indiatogether.org/2008/oct/eco-mihan-1.htm

Shivangaon, a village near Nagpur produces a staggering Rs.25-29 crores worth of milk each year. Government-led land acquisition here for a new cargo hub is hurting the local economy, reports Jaideep Hardikar.

12 October 2008 - Nagpur - They are the Orange city’s milk-bond. But as the government goes ahead with MIHAN project, Shivangaon’s harangued milkmen wonder what’s the substitute to their dairy business – it’s worth Rs 25 crore a year even in a subdued state!

“We don’t know whether or not the cargo hub project comes; what we know for sure is that not just our lands, crops, orange orchards and water, but our cattle would perish. It’s been our strongest thread of survival for many years,” says a septuagenarian Keshavrao Kale, among the village’s first-generation milkmen.

Kale is not alone to suffer huge losses in his business. Over a thousand milkmen of Shivangaon grapple to stay afloat, with their lands being attached for a project they never asked and stood for, even as its influential proponents and well-ensconced political leadership here blindly bulldoze the native people; and this – for a project that has no administrative, environmental or financial nod as yet.

Kale has had to cut down his dairy business to half in last five years. “I still have about 12-13 buffaloes and eight cows, which yield at least 100-litre milk daily.”

That’s a business of Rs 2,000 per day, or a profit of Rs 1200 minus expenditure. “Like others we also have a few persons employed at our stable,” he informs.

“Our lands have been attached, and now this is the only avenue of income. If we are displaced and given small plots, where will these animals go and who will compensate us for this dairy income?” the old man wonders. The government has decided to compensate for the land by paying cash and a residential plot to each family, but 70 per cent people of this village have cattle that bring in daily income from milk, with customers spread across the west and south Nagpur.

Shivangaon has lost its land to nine different projects in fractions since 1937, says Baba Dawre, the protestors’ leader. But the Multi-Modal International Hub and Airport (MIHAN) project would uproot the villagers from their land forever.

Not a single village has been rehabilitated . Shivangaon villagers, including women, had tonsured their heads in protest last year.


• Cargo hub plan drives despair
• I need land, not money
• Amendment to Land Acquistion Act
The village has about 5000 buffaloes and 2000 milch-cows, which together yield roughly 35-40,000 litres of milk every day. At Rs.20 per litre, their milk economy stands at about Rs.7-8 lakhs every day, or a staggering Rs.25-29 crores annually. This is down by over 50 per cent since the project talks began in 1999-2000.

“We have dairy history here,” Dawre informs. “You can see, 70 per cent of our villagers are surviving on milk-economy today, otherwise these people (he refers to the government) have left no stone unturned to destroy our farms this year.”

Factor in the milk produced in the ten neighbouring villages, acquired for the MADC-promoted multi-product SEZ, the daily milk production is double that of Shivangaon and a combined economy of roughly Rs.75 crores annually.

That’s a robust economy, the villagers point out. “Will the government substitute this economy with cash? If it does, we’ll part with our lands, otherwise give us equivalent of our land and livestock?” Dattu Bode, 70, puts it strongly.

He holds: “In a tearing hurry to acquire our land for SEZ and cargo hub, the state government and its (special purpose vehicle) Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) have turned a blind eye to our livelihood options.”

For eight years, the beleaguered villagers have stood united to withstand real-estate forces, the government and a hostile local leadership.

But they are not giving up. “We won’t give up until the government either drops its plan of acquiring our land, or gives us a substitute to our land, crop, orange orchards, water and dairy. All this is worth several hundred crores,” says Vilas Bhagwan Kale, a 26-year-old milkman, who owns 40 cows and buffaloes.

The milkmen demand: “We’ll leave this place, provided we get Rs.25 crores every year, for the next 15 years, as compensation for foregoing our dairy income.”

“We want a guarantee to our income and land. What if the project never comes up? We’ve seen that with MIDC in the past, and there is a strong possibility that the cargo hub may never succeed here,” insists Dawre. He may not be wrong.

The project : Multimodal International Hub and Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN)

Shivangaon (land and houses) with over 1500 hectares is being acquired for expansion of airport; it has given its land in parts since 1937 for various projects, including an 80-ft road, a housing project, a dairy unit and the Indian Air Force’s base for the IL-76 cargo aircraft in mid-eighties.

The MADC is the special purpose vehicle for the implementation of MIHAN . Residents of Shivangaon are protesting acquisition of land at paltry rates . Their demand: Compensation for land at prevailing market rates; substitute to land, and substitute to income from dairy, poultry and orange orchards.

Compensation awarded: Between Rs.1 lakh and Rs.10 lakhs per acre. Market rate, they say, is Rs.1 crore per acre . Seven adjoining villages have lost 2086 hectares for the SEZ. Compensation awarded by MADC to them – between Rs.1 lakh and Rs.3 lakhs.

Not a single village has been rehabilitated . Shivangaon villagers, including women, had tonsured their heads in protest last year. ⊕

Jaideep Hardikar
12 Oct 2008

Jaideep Hardikar is a Nagpur based journalist. He won a 2005 scholarship to research the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha from the Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust, New Delhi. He has also been a recipient of several national media fellowships and was the winner of the 2003 Sanskriti award from Sanskriti Foundation, New Delhi.


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