Friday, July 22, 2011

Land acquisition bill to ensure fair deal to farmers

UPA looks over the shoulder at Mayawati's trouble-ridden policy

New Delhi: The UPA government is concerned over the problems arising out of the Allahabad high court order asking holding land acquisition in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, to be illegal. The court has ordered that the land which has been turned by developers into realty gold mine should be returned to farmers. That had thrown many middle class buyers from Delhi into a tizzy as they had invested in new homes. The builders are making polite noises about returning the money, and the banks have refused to offer home loans.

A senior source in government said that the issue had come up for discussion at the meeting of group of ministers, and that it is concerned as much for the Delhi middle class home buyers as it is about the farmers who have been shortchanged. As Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is travelling across Uttar Pradesh, standing for farmers' cause. At the same time, the party does not want to appear to be insensitive to the plight of home buyers, which has been a crucial constituency for economic reforms-minded Manmohan Singh government.

Of course, the party and the government take satisfaction from the discomfiture of Mayawati government in Lucknow, and they support the young Gandhi scoring brownie points against party's main rival in the state. “The state government is responsible for the whole mess,” says a senior member of the Singh government.

The government feels that the farmer is being short-changed because the price paid for the land at the time of acquiring it for a 'public purpose' is resold by developers at many times over compared to what was paid to the farmers in the first place. The government is taking into account this problem of farmers when rural development minister Jairam Ramesh prepares to bring in the new land acquisition bill in the monsoon session of parliament next month.

The senior member has said that in a state like Punjab where the farmers get a fair price for their land, the social fallout of the transition has been devastating. “They buy big cars and spend it all lavishly in the Punjab countryside, and very soon they are out of money,” the source said.

The proposed land acquisition bill can only ensure that farmers get a fair deal when government or private developers take over the land, but the legislation has no way of containing the social damage that is being done to the farming class as such.

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