Pay farmers their due, says Khalap

The Commission has come out with a progressive draft land acquisition policy based on the Haryana model that attempts to address to some degree the unfair measures in government policy for land acquisition. Given the abysmally low rates of compensation determined by bureaucrats, the land acquisition process in the country has been turned into “land confiscation” with the owner being unjustly punished for the mere fact that he holds property deemed necessary for a public purpose, the Goa report says.

“Farmers have looked after and lived off their lands for years and suddenly they are being deprived of it and told to pack off with pathetic compensation awards. No wonder the frustration has erupted into violent agitations in Singur, Nandigram, Noida and Gurgaon recently,” said Khalap.

The compensation for acquired property should match prevailing market rates, Khalap says, stressing that farmers who lose land should also be paid annuity over a considerable period of time to make up for the loss of their means of livelihood.

This is the basis of Haryana’s Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy which has become the role model for the rest of the country. The Haryana government hiked the compensation for farm land and also devised an inflation-linked royalty payable to farmers for 33 years at the rate of Rs 21,000 to Rs 42,000 per acre per year. It also offers a no litigation incentive.

In Goa where land is under enormous pressure with property speculators and land sharks on the prowl for tourism projects, holiday homes and bargain picks in old homes, public resentment over corruption in allotment of land has been on the boil. In 2007-08 agitations compelled the state government to shelve seven SEZs. Goa’s Industrial Development Corporation had made out 34 lakh square mts to five companies, including realty major K Raheja for the SEZs. The land allotment was cancelled, but the matter is still tangled in the courts.

Plans for a new green field airport at Mopa, Pernem on the Maharashtra border has also encountered resistance from the Mopa Vimental Piditt Xetkari Samiti (Committee of Mopa airport affected farmers). On Wednesday villagers turned back officials who had come to distribute cheques for the compensation amount. They have also resisted the demarcation of land for the airport project. Nearly 140 people are represented in a writ petition that has challenged the land acquisition before the High Court.

Revolt is brewing in Goa against plans to expand industrial estates; to set up an IT park, a cricket stadium, a new airport. “The Goa government must act at the earliest if it wants to offset the likely backlash by adopting its own rehabilitation and resettlement policy,” Khalap says.

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