Transparency and Accountability

It is quite often said in land acquisition discussion that agriculture land or farmers lands are being looted at cheep rate and exploitation of poor land owners. In the proposed RFCRRTLA Bill 2012, there is a proposal to establish new institutions like National LA & RR Dispute Settlement Authority, National Monitoring Committee, State LA & RR Dispute Settlement Authority, Chief Secretary Committee, State Commissioner for RR, District Collector Committee, Administrator for RR, RR Committee and new documentary requirements like Social Impact Assessment Report, Expert Group Report, Collectors Report about non-availability of waste land for industry location. In the process of establishing these institutions we forgot about single window system of clearance and hassle free clearance for industrial projects in the name of transparency and public participation. We believe, this mandatory provision will lead to more corruption and delay at all levels. Mischief mongers will become very active in land acquisition process and it will lead to increase in number of judicial intervention on blimpish grounds. The whole system will lead to delay in payment of compensation to land owners and economic development will slow down. In India, we are having a large number of transparency enforcing institutions like CBI, CVC, State Vigilance Dept., Information Commission, Enforcement Directorate, Committees of legislative bodies, Departmental Proceedings if Civil servant is erroneous, High Courts and Supreme Court, etc. Have we lost faith in these institutions? This issue reminds us a unwritten law (flaw) in the Indian bureaucracy, ''Corruption and delay are proportional to number of dharogas (Inspectors) appointed but never failed to appoint dharogas, otherwise you will be blamed for lack of vigilance''.

Giving complete recipe for an inclusive land institution in a short article is very difficult, however, the following summarisation of foregoing discussion on land acquisition and related issue for allocation of land resources for industrialisation, mining, infrastructure projects and urbanisation will provide a bird's eye view.

  • (i) Combine all central and state land acquisition legislation into one land acquisition legislation with power to state government to bring amendments according to their diversity in land laws and local conditions. Public purpose/use should be well defined. R & R should be delinked from LA Act.
  • (ii) Strengthening the provision of section 11 (2) of LA Act 1894 which provides for consent award. Some redundant sections of LA Act 1894 should be removed to reduce delay in payment of compensation to land owners.
  • (iii) Long term lease of land for 15 to 30 years should be provided in land acquisition procedure for purposes like mining or temporary purpose in which land can be return to the land owner. If land is not returned after expiry of lease period, again compensation has to be paid at current market rate.
  • (iv) Purchase of land directly from land owners by requesting agency for development projects. Making land owners as partners or share holder of the project wherever possible. Sale/lease of government land without going to cabinet approval as practiced in some states. Transfer of community land with consent of Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat with adequate compensation and also replacement of community property wherever possible, reclassification of land usage by local authorities with permission of local revenue authorities may be permitted.
  • (v) Transfer of tribal and non tribal land in Scheduled V and VI areas for public use like education, health, large scale employment generation activities, urbanization, infrastructure development, etc through market forces should be allowed. This public use transfer is necessary to reduce economic deprivation and marginalization of tribal themselves.

Last but not the least, government should free land institutions of India from outdated socialism model land legislations and, industrialists and builders should try to create inclusive land institutions rather than purchasing land through forceful land acquisition.

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