Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Proposed Andhra capital region: Fact-finding team questions govt decision to acquire 1 lakh acres

Under threat: Lush green fields
By Our Representative
A fact-finding team set up by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) on the proposed capital region of Andhra Pradesh has concluded that “there is no rationale for acquiring land to the extent of land 52,000 to 1 lakh acres, as per various pronouncements, from an area which has “diverse and prosperous agriculture”. Pointing out that “a very disturbing game of real estate speculation and land sale has been unleashed”, Contending that this "defies all imagination”, the team said, in the first phase, only 9000 acres were acquired for Chandigarh, and another 6000 acres were acquired for second phase.
Not just this, the team in its report said, “These two phases have taken more than 50 years for implementation”, adding, “Experience of Chandigarh shows that, after 60 years, the population has grown only to 12 lakh.” Then, another city, which was developed on similar lines, Gandhinagar, took 20 years to grow to its current stage, with a population of just 2.5 lakh. NAPM, which sponsored the study, is one of India’s largest network of rights-based organization.
Referring to the area where the new capital region is proposed, the team said, the whole idea looks particularly strange when one of the nearby cities, Vijayawada, encompasses 15,500 acres, and another city, Guntur, has 13,000 acres. Given this framework, the team said, “There is absolutely no reason for the new capital area to have an area beyond a couple of thousand acres.”
What provides credence to the team is, it was headed by MG Devasahayam, retired IAS bureaucrat who was administrator-cum-estate officer of the Chandigarh Capital Project. The team also included Bhupathiraju Ramakrishnam Raju, national convenor of NAPM, P Chenniah, leader of Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union, and Prof Babu Rao, eminent environmental expert and retired professor from Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT).
Pointing out that team is “highly disturbed by the approach of the Andhra Pradesh government in proceeding with the capital region identification and development without any due process and legal basis”, the team said, the state government, in fact, is involved in spreading “confusion, fear and tension among the residents of the 29 villages whose names have been announced.”
The team visited several of the affected villages, -- Undavalli and Penumaka villages (Tadepalli Mandal); Krishnayapalem, Nidamarru, Koragal and Neerukonda (Mangalagiri Mandal); Venkatapalem, Mandadam, Malkapuram, Uddandayyapalem, Lingayapalem, Rayapudi, Peddaparimi, Vaddamanu and Tullur (Tullur Mandal).
“The villages marked for the capital region include two kinds of villages – one with irrigated multi-crop land within 2 km from the river and another with mostly rainfed land. All the villages have a vibrant agricultural economy of Rs1,000 crore per year, with complete linkages from farm to market, and large sections of people deriving livelihoods – including land owners, sharecroppers, tenant farmers and agricultural workers”, the team in its report said.
“This is an area of the best soil and climatic conditions, and the richest diversity of more than 120 crops. More than 1 lakh working persons are earning secure livelihood from agriculture in these villages, including the residents and external labour. Drastic urbanization of this area will adversely impact food security of the state”, it added.
Criticizing the government for talking about ‘land-pooling’, the team said, “There is no clear understanding among the people about the terms on which their land will be taken and what benefits they will get. Some political leaders have told the farmers that pooling system is final, and that if the farmers do not agree to the pooling, either their land will be compulsorily acquired or their lands will be declared as “green belt” after which they will never be able to develop the land or sell the same.”
It added, “Most of the information that the villagers have is coming from real estate agents leading to a sudden boom in the land rates and sale of more than 3,500 acres in a month involving more than Rs 4,000 crore. All this has created a mindset of uncertainty, confusion and fear among the villagers about their future.”
The team regretted, “Even the most basic requirement of preparing a feasibility report has not been done. The only existing law which governs the acquisition of land is the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. This Act can be used only for public purpose, and commercial land development and city development is not considered public purpose. Even for public purpose, acquisition of irrigated, multi-crop land is prohibited except under exceptional circumstances when there is absolutely no alternative.”
“It is to be noted that under the new Land Acquisition Act, every person whose livelihood is impacted by the project should be considered as project-affected person and duly compensated before land can be acquired by the government. The government’s emphasis on land-pooling seems to be a systematic attempt to avoid any compensation to the entire sections of people engaged in agricultural labour and other occupations, thereby undermining the letter and spirit of the Land Acquisition Act”, the team said.

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