Sunday, August 7, 2011

Land Acquisition With Vision

Acquiring farmland for non-agricultural purposes is not just a matter of changing ownership; it has to do with the nature of Indian society and must be addressed with vision.

Judging from news reports, the new draft of the Land Acquisition Bill prepared by Jairam Ramesh the new Minister for Rural Development will focus purely on logistics. Acquisition of farmland will require approval by 80 percent of owners in an area, and there will be an effort to ensure payment of a fair price.

But the Bill is without vision. It does not address two critical issues.

One is the future of those displaced by non-agricultural uses of the land. Will they, like so many before, be temporarily rich and then sink into poverty? Or will they go on to enriching and productive lives?

The second issue is the fate of the land itself: will the new owners treat it with the necessary respect and care?

I would like to suggest to Mr. Ramesh that the Land Acquisition Bill address these two issues within the framework of his former responsibilities to safeguard the country’s natural environment.

Specifically, the Land Acquisition Bill should contain two provisions:

1) To build into the transfer pricing a component that will ensure ongoing support for the education and training of the first generation of displaced people and their children. An effort should be made to maintain the connection to the land these people have had for many generations.

2) To facilitate the training of some of the displaced farmers to be paid Monitors of the lands transferred to other uses. The new owners of the land would fund this monitoring through a system of maintenance fees built into transfer agreements.

To be fully effective, these arrangements should go hand in hand with the development of a national Environmental Monitoring Service charged with maintaining a continuously updated Web-based reporting system, with a consolidated Annual Report to parliament. 

No comments: