Land Bill and its spin offs

Land Bill and its spin offs

The Bill needs to be comprehensive and evolved after due consultation with experts in the field.

Anna Hazare is once again in the limelight – this time leading the agitation against the Land Acquisition Bill. It clearly lacked mass participation, the kind of one witnessed in 2011 campaign, India Against Corruption. The farmers/adivasis who participated in the agitation were a miniscule of their strength in the country. Except for Jantar Mantar agitation was not witnessed anywhere else. Yet, can this agitation be ignored by the government? Certainly not, it has its own spin offs which merit consideration.

A visit to the ground zero (Jantar Mantar) revealed that an overwhelming majority of the participants were landless farmers/adivasis who had no clue of the Land Acquisition Bill. They were present at the behest of the Ekta Parishad and the Indian Farmers Union. Landless farmers had come with the hope to get some land from the government. There were some whose land was grabbed by the landlords. Adivasis were agitating against the heavy handedness of corrupt forest/ police officials and wanted restoration of rights to cultivate their traditional land. Farmers whose land was acquired or was in the process of acquisition were far and few.

The need to replace the 1894 Land Acquisition Bill (kept alive with amendments applied from time to time) is undisputable. The first attempt in this direction was made by the UPA government in 2013. It was opposed by the then opposition.

The current government labelled the 2013 bill a threat to National Security and brought in the current bill in December 2014. Clearly, it has become a bouncing ball amongst the political parties. The recent agitation has revealed some interesting facets that have relevance for both the Central government and the social activists.

Firstly, the proposed bill needs to be comprehensive and evolved after due consultation with experts in the field. It would be better for the government to shun any political baggage of the UPA era since the current regime has been in power for the last nine months.

The bill should take into account the need for national development as well as the interests of the farmers and their families. It should not make the rich richer and keep the poor perpetually poor. Secondly, the bill should be fully explained to farmers/ adivasis through the modicum of panchayats/ district authorities. It should belie the fear of any unfair deal which the farmers/adivasis may host.

Thirdly, any fresh land acquisition should be done only after the already acquired land is fully developed. Ironically, only 10 per cent of the proposed 1083 SEZs are approaching functional status which account for 1.5 lack hectare of land. Provision of affordable housing included in the bill is in a state of complete mess.

Delhi’s sub-city Dwarka, launched in the 1980s, is yet to have basic piped water supply and the allied amenities. Such examples abound in the country. It demands a serious introspection from the government of the day. The nation cannot continue to play into the hands of builder’s mafia and acquire land on the pretext of affordable housing without diligent planning.

No more acquiring land

Fourthly, is there a need to acquire any more land for private colleges/universities? Majority of the existing private colleges/universities have proved to be sub-standard. They are handing out degrees which are not even worth the value of the paper on which they are printed. There is a crying need to elevate educational standards in the government schools. It will give fair opportunities to the poor and be an engine of growth since we have more than 50 per cent of our population under the age of 25 years. If not nurtured properly, the same youth bulge could be our nemesis.

Fifthly, the poor farmers/adivasis with meagre holdings must be protected from unfair means of eviction/land grabbing. Corrupt practices by the police/ forest officials in dealing with adivasis are dealt with an iron hand. This has a direct bearing on India’s national security. The current problem of Naxals/Maoists has its roots in the struggle between the landless farmers/adivasis. Today, it has engulfed a large part of India and continues to be a major security threat to the nation.

The sale and purchase of land/ houses is one the biggest source of black money in India. Almost 50 per cent of the money is transacted through hard cash (black) in any land deal. Land is often seen as a safe haven to park black money. Poor and uneducated farmers are often cheated since the land transactions lack transparency.

There is a need to make land/ housing transactions completely transparent.  It would be a good idea if Anna Hazare continues with his original theme of removing corruption from our society.  It will pave way for better developed and safer India for our future generation to prosper and grow.

(The writer is a strategic and security analyst and a social activist)

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)