Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gujarat recipe to acquire land cheap for industry: Town planning law "overrides" new land acquisition Act

A replica of Dholera "smart city"
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government is all set to make it official now. A top state document in Gujarati, prepared by the state revenue department, has made it clear that the new land acquisition law – the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR, 2013) – will not be application in areas where a town planning scheme is floated. The document, still in its draft form, and floated as "rules" for LARR Act, 2013, makes it clear, “Wherever a town planning scheme is finalised, there will not be any land acquisition under any other law.”
Meant for internal discussion and running into 200 pages, the document, which gives a comprehensive picture on how the land acquisition law, passed under the previous UPA government at the Centre and supported by the BJP, would be implemented in Gujarat, however, makes it clear that till the point a town planning scheme is in the draft form and is not finalised, no land acquisition can place under the town planning Act. “But as soon as the town planning scheme is finalised, any land acquisition under LARR, 2013 would be treated as illegal”, it insists.
The draft rules providing precedence to the town planning Act over LARR, 2013, if finalised, are particularly significant, as it would legitimise land acquisition done by the Gujarat government in the special investment regions (SIRs) after floating the town planning scheme in areas like Dholera in Ahmedabad district, where an ultra-modern Greenfield city is being planned. Farmers of the region, fighting for saving their land under the banner of Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), had objected to government acquiring 40 to 50 per cent of land under the pretext of town planning.
The issue of “taking away” 50 per cent of farmers' land came up sharply during the environmental public hearing for Dholera SIR on January 3, 2014, where a senior government official KD Chandnani, who is also CEO, Dholera SIR Development Authority, said, “Under the Town Planning Scheme, after deduction of land up to 50 per cent, land will be allotted to the original land owner in a geometric shape, and with all the infrastructure facilities, in the form of a final plot. Compensation for the deducted land will be paid as per the jantri April 2011.”
The application of jantri, which is the government assessment of the value of land, for the 50 per cent of the land “taken away” for infrastructure development under the town planning Act stands in sharp contrast to the draft rules for LARR Act, 2013, which states that in the urban areas compensation for land acquisition would be “four times that of the latest market value of land.” Under the town planning Act, however, jantri is applied. Based government assessment of the prevailing rate, jantri is known to be several times lower than the market rate and is generally “fixed” once in five years.
While the farmers would be net losers if a town planning Act is floated, the Gujarat government's draft rules for LARR Act, 2013 state that, in contrast to the urban areas, in the rural areas' compensation against land acquisition would be 50 per cent less than that of urban areas. They say,in effect, in the rural areas, the compensation would be “two times” (as against four times in urban areas) of the latest market rate, fixed by taking into account the highest selling price in the last three years.
At the same time, the draft rules for LARR, 2013 repeat other details – such as the need for consent from 70 per cent of the rural populace in case of a public-private partnership (PPP) project and 80 per cent of the rural populace in case the project is privately owned. The rules also provide extensive details about on providing rehabilitation, including employment and other livelihood options, of the affected population. They also give details on how to acquire land during an emergency. The state rules acquire significance, as land is in concurrent list of the Constitution, and the Centre cannot overrule them.

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