I have submitted my comments and objections to the Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on the proposed Land Acquisition Act demanding special consideration for Goa and Goans. I am reproducing the letter in this column for all Goans to read and comments.
AT THE OUTSET THE ACT HAS TO HAVE A PROVISION FOR REQUISITION OF LAND so that whenever land is required for a temporary period it should be used for that period only and returned to the owner instead of permanently displacing the owner from the land. In fact, the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court has even passed an order directing the government to “REQUISITION” land instead of ACQUISITION.
The criteria used to determine the price of the land has to compulsorily be transparent and the price of land should also be subject to approval of the Social Impact Assessment committee given the fact that the Land Price Index fixed by the government is far removed from the actual market price of land. Besides, in Goa, it is a well known fact that the price mentioned in the Deed of Sale or conveyance registered with the Sub-Registrar is not the actual price paid for the land or premises.
Given the small size of Goa, its peculiar and unique social structure, exemptions, exclusions and concessions have to be provided in the Act for the State of Goa.
OUR OBJECTION: The foreword itself is negative as it states that urbanization is inevitable which implies that the government is accepting its failure in providing sustainable development to the rural sector.
Besides, the foreword also notes that industrialization has to be accelerated thereby implying that land is sought to be acquired for setting up industries which means that government will acquire land for third party, which the past experience has proven to be nothing but an exercise of land grab.
The observation “the issue of who acquires land is less important than the process of land acquisition” is objectionable as who acquires the land is extremely important given the experience till date where under the garb of public use, land has been acquired for third parties.
POINT WISE COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT BILL
(1b) Government acquires land with the ultimate intent to transfer it for the use of private companies for stated public purpose (including Public Private Partnership projects but not including national or state highway projects)
OUR OBJECTION: Under no circumstances whatsoever should government intervene to acquire land for private companies, even for Public Private Partnership projects as world over the experience has been that PPP projects end up with the private party raking in the profits and the government accruing the liabilities.
While the first clause in defining public purpose can be accepted, the other clauses are too general and need to be actually quantified specially ‘industrialisation’ and ‘urbanisation’ in clause (ii) and as for clause (iii) the acquisition should not result in rehabilitation and resettlement of people once again by taking possession of their land to rehabilitate some other displaced people.
(1c) the Appropriate Government acquires land for immediate and declared use by private companies for public purpose
OUR OBJECTION: Under no circumstances whatsoever should the government intervene to acquire land for private companies even if it is claimed to be for public purpose. The experience has been that this is nothing but a ruse by the private companies for land grab with the government either being gullible or motivated to abet the land grab.
PROVIDED that the Public purpose for sub sections (b) and (c) above, once stated, cannot be changed.
OUR OBJECTION: This proviso should be further expanded to state that if the public purpose is sought to be changed, then the land should be returned to its rightful owners in its original condition and fresh land acquisition proceedings be initiated.
PROVIDED FURTHER that Land Acquisition under sub sections (b) and (c) above can take place where at least 80 per cent of the affected families give their consent to the proposed acquisition.
OUR OBJECTION: While this proviso is appreciable, it gives scope for manipulation and machinations given the illiteracy rate in the country.
(l)the expression “Family” includes a person, his or her spouse, minor children, minor brothers, minor sisters dependent on him
OUR OBJECTION: What about aged parents?
(n) the expression “Infrastructure Project” shall include
(ii)construction of roads, highways, defence, bridges, airports, ports, rail systems or mining activities, educational, sports, health care, tourism, transportation, space programme and housing for such income groups, as may be specified from time to time by the appropriate Government
OUR OBJECTION: Including mining activities in infrastructure projects is objectionable as in Goa mining is undertaken entirely by private parties with no government control whatsoever and while the private companies rake in the profits they damage and destroy the environment and ecology besides causing immense hardships to the people.
As for tourism, government should under no circumstances acquire land for tourism for private parties of PPP projects and government acquisition should be strictly restricted to only government projects.
(s) the expression “Marginal Farmer” means a cultivator with an un-irrigated land holding up to one hectare or irrigated land holding up to half hectare
OUR OBJECTION: In Goa where due to immense pressure on land, land holdings are fragmented, the limit of one hectare of unirrigated land and half hectare of irrigated land is unacceptable and whatever land held by the farmer should be taken into account.
(y) the expression “Public Purpose” includes
(ii)the provision of land for infrastructure, industrialization and urbanization projects of the appropriate Government, where the benefits largely accrue to the general public
OUR OBJECTION: The terms infrastructure, industrialization and urbanization need to be defined as otherwise it will leave scope for manipulations and machinations
(iv)the provision of land for any other purpose useful to the general public, including land for companies, for which at least 80 per cent of the project affected people have given their consent through a prior informed process
OUR OBJECTION: The proviso of consent of 80 per cent of the project affected people can be misused as mentioned earlier
(v)the provision of land for residential purposes to the poor or landless or to persons residing in areas affected by natural calamities, or to persons displaced or affected by reason of the implementation of any scheme undertaken by Government, any local authority or a corporation owned or controlled by the State
OUR OBJECTION: In case of natural calamities, if the land is required for a temporary period, then the government should requisition the land instead of acquiring it as was done in Goa during the CHOGM retreat.
(bb) the expression “Small Farmer” means a cultivator with an un-irrigated land holding up to two hectares or with an irrigated land holding up to one hectare, but more than the holding of a marginal farmer
OUR OBJECTION: This definition should not be applicable in Goa for reasons already mentioned hereinabove due to the small land holdings
DETERMINATION OF SOCIAL IMPACT AND PUBLIC PURPOSE
3.Preparation of Social Impact Assessment
(1)Whenever the Appropriate Government intends to acquire land equal to or more than one hundred acres for a public purpose, a Social Impact Assessment study shall be carried out in the affected area in consultation with the Gram Sabha at habitation level or equivalent body in urban areas, in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed.
OUR OBJECTION: With regards to Goa, given the small land size, Social Impact Assessment should be carried out even when land less than one hundred acres is sought to be acquired. In fact, Social Impact Assessment should be made mandatory for every land acquisition in Goa irrespective of the area sought to be acquired.
6.Exemption from Social Impact Assessment
Where land is proposed to be acquired invoking the urgency provisions under section 30 of the Act, the appropriate Government may exempt undertaking of the Social Impact Assessment study
OUR OBJECTION: The urgency provisions need to be specified as otherwise it will be misused and abused as is being done at present.
11.Hearing of objections
(3)The decision of the Appropriate Government on the objections shall be final.
OUR OBJECTION: This appears draconian and against the principle of natural justice as scope has to be provided to appeal against the decision of the Appropriate Government given the fact that the government in many cases appears to be motivated in land acquisition matters
16.Notice to persons interested
(1)The Collector shall publish the public notice on the website and cause public notice to be given at convenient places on or near the land to be taken, stating that the Government intends to take possession of the land, and that claims to compensations and rehabilitation and resettlement for all interests in such land may be made to him. Such notice shall state the particulars of the land so needed, and shall require all persons interested in the land to appear personally or by agent or pleader before the Collector at a time and place therein mentioned (such time not being earlier than fifteen days after the date of publication of the notice), and to state the nature of their respective interests in the land and the amount and particulars of their claims to compensation for such interests, their claims to rehabilitation and resettlement along with their objections (if any) to the measurements made under section 15.
OUR OBJECTION: This clause needs to be amended for Goa as a large number of Goans are not residing in the State as they are working overseas or onboard ships as Indian citizens and the time period of 15 days is too short for them to appear before the Collector. For Goa the time period should be at least 60 days. An extension in time may be granted following a request by either the interested party or his or her representative. Further, notice has to be personally served upon the affected person and if that is not possible then notice may be served by affixing it on the door of the last known residence of the person.
23.Provision of Infrastructural Amenities in the Resettlement Area
Where there are more than one hundred families displaced, then the Collector shall ensure the provision of all infrastructural and basic amenities as listed in Schedule III of the Act.
OUR OBJECTION: In Goa the number of people displaced to make this provision applicable has to be revised to 20 families as the population is sparse.
30.Special powers in case of urgency
(1)In cases of urgency, whenever the Appropriate Government so directs, the Collector, though no such award has been made, may, on the expiration of fifteen days from the publication of the notice mentioned in section 9 take possession of any land needed for a public purpose. Such land shall thereupon vest absolutely in the Government, free from all encumbrances.
OUR OBJECTION: The urgency needs to be specified as otherwise it will abused and misused as has been done till date and as mentioned earlier, the time period should be 60 days.
PROVIDED FURTHER that the Collector shall not take possession of any building or part of a building under this sub-section without giving to the occupier thereof at least forty-eight hours notice of his intention to do so, or such longer notice as may be reasonably sufficient to enable such occupier to remove his movable property from such building without unnecessary inconvenience.
OUR OBJECTION: In case the possession is for a temporary period as may be the case while dealing with natural calamities, then the affected person has to be informed the period when his building or structure will be required and the same should be returned to him or her in its original position with the authorities paying for any damage caused to the structure and also paying a demurrage in the form of compensation for each day of delay in handing back possession of the structure.
REHABILITATION AND RESETTLEMENT
33.Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee at Project Level
(1)Where land proposed to be acquired is equal to or more than one hundred acres, the Appropriate Government shall constitute a Committee under the chairmanship of the Collector to be called the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee, to monitor and review the progress of implementation of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement scheme and to carry out post-implementation social audits in consultation with the village panchayat in rural areas and municipality in urban areas.
OUR OBJECTION: For Goa, the quantum of land needs to be revised for reasons already mentioned herein above and instead of consultation with the Panchayat in rural areas, it should be consultation with the gram sabha
TEMPORARY OCCUPATION OF LAND
54.Temporary occupation of waste or arable land, procedure when difference as to compensation exists
(1)Whenever it appears to the Appropriate Government that the temporary occupation and use of any waste or arable land are needed for any public purpose, or for a Company, the Appropriate Government may direct the Collector to procure the occupation and use of the same for such terms as it shall think fit, not exceeding three years from the commencement of such occupation.
OUR OBJECTION: Why should the government procure land for a company? While preparing its project report, the company should have specified the land required and moved to acquire it from their own resources
63.Acquisition of land at cost of a local authority of Company
(1)Where the provisions of this Act are put in force for the purpose of acquiring land at the cost of any fund controlled or managed by a local authority or of any Company, the charges of and incidental to such acquisition shall be defrayed from or by such fund or company.
OUR OBJECTION: Notwithstanding the provision to defray the cost of acquisition from the company, the government should not intervene in acquiring any land for any private company even it is avowed to be required for public purpose for reasons already mentioned hereinabove
70.Difference in price of land when transferred for higher consideration to be shared
Whenever the ownership of any land acquired under this Act is transferred to any person for a consideration, twenty per cent of the difference in the acquisition cost and the consideration received, which in no case shall be less than the acquisition cost, duly adjusting for development cost shall be shared amongst the persons from whom the lands were acquired or their heirs, in proportion to the value at which the lands were acquired, and for the purpose, a separate fund may be maintained which shall be administered by the Collector in such manner as may be prescribed.
OUR OBJECTION: Why this provision unless the Act is aimed at acquiring land for private parties with the government authorities acting as real estate brokers?
List of Rehabilitation and Resettlement Entitlements for all the affected families (both land owners and the families whose livelihood is primarily dependent on land acquired) in addition to those provided in Schedule I
1.Provision of Housing Units in case of displacement
(1)Any affected family owning house and whose house has been acquired shall be provided with a house, without requiring him to pay the price for such house, in an extent of a minimum of 150 square metre of plinth area in rural areas or, as the case may be, 50 square metre of plinth area in urban areas.
OUR OBJECTION: This appears ridiculous as a loser of a big house will be provided with only 150 square metres plinth area. For those who lose more than the proposed plinth area, the alternative has to be the same as the plinth area lost by them
In Goa the owners of mundkarial houses under the Goa, Daman & Diu Mundkar Act have to be protected and properly rehabilitated by ensuring that they are given 300 sq mts of land in rural areas and 100 square metres in urban areas.
(2)Any affected family which is without homestead land and which has been residing in the area continuously for a period of not less than three years preceding the date of notification of the affected area and which has been involuntarily displaced from such area, shall be provided with a house with a house, without requiring him to pay the price for such house, in an extent of a minimum of 150 square metre of plinth area in rural areas or, as the case may be, 50 square metre of plinth area in urban areas.
OUR OBJECTION: This should not be applicable to people living on rental basis or illegally occupying government or Communidade or private lands.
2.Land for Land
In the case of Irrigation project, each affected family owning agricultural land in the affected area and whose land has been acquired or lost, or who has, as a consequence of the acquisition or loss of land, been reduced to the status of a marginal farmer or landless, shall be allotted, in the name of each person included in the records of rights with regard to the affected family, a minimum of one acre of land in the command area of the project for which the land is acquired.
OUR OBJECTION: The provision of a minimum one acre can be prejudicial to affected persons who have lost huge tracts of land and hence needs to be more specific making the compensation proportionate to the land lost in case the affected person has lost more than one acre of land for the irrigation facility
The Appropriate Government shall, at their cost, arrange for annuity policies that will pay an annuity of two thousand rupees per month, indexed to Consumer Price Index;
4.Subsistence Grant for displaced families for a period of one year
Each affected family which is displaced shall be given a monthly subsistence allowance equivalent to three thousand rupees per month for a period of one year from the date of award.
OUR OBJECTION: In Goa, the quantum proposed as Annuity and Subsistence Grant needs to be enhanced substantially given the high cost of living. Annuity of a mere Rs. 2000 and Subsistence Allowance of Rs. 3000 appears to be a pittance and it should be increased to Rs. 5000 per month.
8.Provision of Mandatory Employment
In case of a project involving land acquisition on behalf of a requiring body-
(1)The requiring body shall give mandatory employment to at least one member per affected family in the project or arrange for a job in such other project as may be required;
(2)Wherever necessary, the requiring body shall arrange for training of the affected persons, so as to enable such persons to take on suitable jobs;
(3)the requiring body shall offer scholarships and other skill development opportunities to eligible persons from the affected families, as per such criteria as may be fixed by the appropriate Government.
PROVIDED that where the Employer fails to provide regular employment for one member of the affected family, Appropriate Government shall pay to the affected family a sum of rupees two lakhs in lieu of such employment.
OUR OBJECTION: While the clauses herein are acceptable, the proviso is not as the amount of Rs. 2,00,000 in lieu of employment being a meager sum, will be misused and abused and hence it should be Rs. 2,00,000 for each member of the family, which in the case of Goa should be Rs. 5,00,000 for each member of the family because of the high cost of living.
13.Special Provisions for Schedule Tribes:
(1)In case of a project involving land acquisition on behalf of a requiring body which involves involuntary displacement of one hundred or more Scheduled Tribes families, a Tribal Development Plan shall be prepared, in such form as may be prescribed, laying down the details of procedure for settling land rights due but not settled and restoring titles of tribals on alienated land by undertaking a special drive together with land acquisition.
OUR OBJECTION: The qualification of 100 tribal families will not be applicable in Goa given the size of the State and hence has to be reduced to 20 tribal families
The special provisions for STs appears to be a mere cut and paste job as providing one acre of land to ST family is unfair and the land offered should be proportionate to the number of persons in the family as tribals live as a joint family.
The land acquired for one purpose cannot be used for another purpose by another department as it implies a total lack of application of mind while acquiring the land and transferring to another department tantamount to land grab.