Land acquisition is an absolute prerequisite for industrialization and infrastructure development. India has limited land mass. We still have 40 crore acres or 11 percent of world’s total agricultural land. The land so far acquired for SEZs (special economic zones) is about 200,000 acres. The land required for industrialization and infrastructure development falls below one percent of the land available.
Any land acquisition policy against such a backdrop must ensure that farmers who lose land emerge as winners and that land is available for promoting industrialization, infrastructure development, urbanization and economic growth.
It should ensure that the farmer gets handsome compensation well above the market price. The Lok Satta welcomes the provisions in the Bill which ensure fair compensation to the land loser.
Dr. JP said that the children of farmers who part with land should be equipped with skills and provided jobs in activities that follow land acquisition. He recalled that he had the privilege of training 8000 children of farmers who parted with their land for the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant and providing permanent jobs to all of them. The present Land Acquisition Bill is silent on this aspect.
Dr. JP said that the Bill is silent on another important aspect. Once land is acquired say for a project its value shoots up dramatically, up to 100 fold in some cases. Considering that, the land acquired for any project should be double that needed by the project. Half the land thus acquired should be given back to farmers after development. Under such a policy, the farmer gets not only compensation but also developed land whose value will have steeply appreciated.
Dr. JP said laws should promote risk taking and entrepreneurial activity, more so when millions of young men and women are looking for livelihood opportunities and the country is highly deficient in infrastructure and manufacturing. The land acquisition law, instead, makes the life of the prospective entrepreneur miserable and dashes the hopes of the youth.