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This land is my land PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 July 2011 00:00
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To begin with, it was the acquisition of 156 hectares of farmland in Noida Extension’s Shahberi village that was quashed by the Allahabad High Court. This was followed by another 589 hectares, also in Noida Extension. In both cases, the ruling was the same: the state government had used the urgency clause to procure the land which didn’t allow land-losers to protest. The third quashing, this time involving 3,000 hectares, could have happened on Tuesday with farmers from a dozen villages challenging the acquisition of their land, but the division bench of the Allahabad High Court referred the matter to the chief justice, requesting that a larger bench be constituted to hear the case—a smart decision given that farmers are now wanting additional compensation for land acquired way back in 1976. In other words, should the agitation gather momentum, the future of cities like Noida, and more, could well be under threat. Part of the reason is that the farmers have tasted blood, but the fact that Rahul Gandhi has decided to use this as the launch-pad for his assault against Mayawati is likely to be a big factor. As the state’s elections draw closer, expect the agitations to gather momentum.

India’s ambitious urbanisation plans, which would need additional investments of $1.2 tn over the next two decades, are almost certain to get hit. According to McKinsey estimates, 270 mn additional persons are likely to move into cities in the next 20 years, necessitating the building of 700-900 mn sq mt of commercial and residential space each year—that’s more than two Mumbais each year. In the past, it is true, large parts of India’s urban areas got built without giving land-losers much of a choice. But given larger awareness, that’s no longer an option today. One option, increasingly being favoured by the Union government is to go along with the NAC’s suggestion that only government be allowed to acquire land, and even decide for what purpose land can be acquired. That sounds good in principle, but is impractical as it will slow down the process—keep in mind that most agitations centre around land acquired by the government, not the private sector—and will open up more avenues to play favourites. This is where political sagacity is required, to get all concerned parties to the negotiating table to work out solutions and broadly acceptable parameters including a combination of annuities, equity-shares and one-time payments, regulators at the state-level with their own fast-track appeals processes, and efficient ways to disseminate information on prices—eventually, India needs to create a market for land that people trust, and all of these are vital ingredients of that process.

 

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