Current Affairs

Consider Goa’s Social Structure before Finalizing Land Acquisition Bill Draft: Saldanha

The Union Rural Development Ministry should consider Goa’s unique social structure, anomalies in land prices and other factors and grant exemptions while finalizing the draft land acquisition bill, say social activists.

National Fisheries Forum (NFF) chairman Mathany Saldanha said the ministry should take into account Goa’s special nature and called for more transparent criteria to fix land prices. The draft bill has been put up for suggestions and objections from the public by the rural development ministry.

Saldanha said the prices should also be subject to approval of the social impact assessment committee. “This is because the land price index fixed by the government is far removed from the actual market price of land,” he added.

Explaining the situation in Goa, Saldanha said that land prices referred to in the sale deed registered with the sub-registrar are not the actual price paid for the land or premises. “Given the state’s small size, its peculiar and unique social structure, exemptions, exclusions and concessions have to be provided in the act for Goa,” he said.

Saldanha said the act should provide for requisition of land, which is required only for a temporary period and its return to the owner to prevent permanent displacement, pointing out that Bombay high court at Goa has ruled in favour of requisition instead of acquisition.

The former MLA objected to the statement in the draft bill that urbanization is inevitable. “This implies that the government is accepting its failure in providing sustainable development to the rural sector,” he said.

Objecting to the idea that industrialization has to be accelerated, he said past experience has proved to be nothing but an exercise of land-grab on behalf of third parties.

Social activist Siddarth Karapurkar agreed, “Goa has lost a lot of agricultural land and hardly anything is left to sacrifice,” he said. Making a case for food security, he said the Centre should ascertain the size of the country’s agricultural land and if it would be adequate to cater to India’s growing population. “If we don’t harmonize and co-relate the development with the food security, we will be short of food in the next few years,” Karapurkar said.

Saldanha urged the government not to intervene in acquiring land for private companies, even for public private partnership projects as private parties rake in profits while the government accrues only the liabilities.

The NFF chairman said that if the public purpose of acquisition is sought to be changed, then the land should be returned to its rightful owners in its original condition and fresh land acquisition proceedings initiated.

Saldanha said the expression “family” includes a person, his or her spouse, minor children, minor brothers, minor sisters dependent on him, but should also incorporate aged parents. Karapurkar added that in case of land acquired for industries, one job per family as compensation smacked of injustice. “It is too little, as his children and grandchildren will not only lose the land but they won’t get jobs after his death,” he said.

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