Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Land Acquisition Should be Fundamentally Changed

In response to the public invitation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Land Acquisitions I've sent off the following suggestions. Hope someone there reads it.

Dear Chairman Ahluwalia

Land acquisition in India cannot be merely an economic transaction for it will affect the weights, structures and balances of our society and culture.

As the bill now stands, it is not cognizant of this issue. It seeks to fix a one-time market value on an asset with social and cultural dimensions that cannot be priced.

No matter how high the one-time payment and how firm the promise of jobs, millions are bound to feel victimized.

If the bill is adopted without a fundamental change in approach, and if even a small portion of the planned “industrial corridors” through the heart of the country are actually built, the result will be huge and destabilizing social imbalances that could undermine whatever “development” is achieved.

To get over this problem and to ensure that those who lose land will not feel victimized in the least, I suggest the following new provisions in the bill:

1. All land acquisition, for whatever purpose, will be limited to a period of 99 years. After that period ownership will revert to the original owners, who will be free to negotiate on further uses of their land. This provision will have several positive effects:

(a) The resistance to giving up land will be virtually eliminated (especially in view of the other provisions below).

(b) The cost of land acquisition will likely fall as owners become eager to participate in projects that could make them wealthy.

(c) By giving families that lose land a long-term stake in development, any social instability will be positively oriented.

(d) When the 99-year leases mature the Indian population will be in sharp decline. The time will be ripe for a complete review of land use patterns and perhaps a new spate of development and re-development to suit new needs

2. In the case of acquisition for corporate use, land owners will receive shares in the company and stock options that kick in when valuations pass set benchmarks. Those who give up land and their family members will also be given priority consideration for employment.

3. In the case of public acquisition land owners will receive continuing payments from a dedicated tax-supported fund.

4. Children of those losing land will be entitled to scholarships paid for either by the relevant corporations or out of a dedicated tax-supported fund.

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