Friday, September 11, 2015

Congress belies apprehensions, asks Gujarat governor not to sign "pro-corporate" land acquisition Bill

Bharatsinh Solanki
By Our Representative
One day after Gujarat's upcoming farmers' organization, Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), accused the Congress of adopting a lackadaisical attitude towards new land laws being brought by the state BJP rulers for favouring industrialists, the state Congress leadership has asked the the Gujarat Governor not to sign the controversial Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015, calling it anti-weaker sections.
Signed by three senior leaders, state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki, Leader of Opposition in the assembly Shankarsinh Vaghela, and ex-Leader of Opposition Arjun Modhwadia, a memorandum submitted to the governor said the bill was passed with majority vote after suspending the entire opposition from the assembly on August 28, 2015.
Giving a detailed explanation on the implications of the amendment – which JAAG failed to do – the memorandum said, the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling Act was enacted in 1960 with the aim of acquiring surplus agricultural land from landlords, allotting it to agricultural cooperative societies, especially those that were formed with members of weaker sections of society, especially landless labourers and farmers with small land holdings.
Suggesting that with the new amendment the surplus land is sought to be handed over to the industrialists at a very cheap rate, as it was found not being used, the memorandum said, “The main purpose of this Act was to allot surplus such land to the needy people like cattle breeder, landless persons, farm labourers and small land holders, and forming their cooperative societies.”
Pointing out that taking advantage of a recent judgment of Supreme Court judgment, the government “received” all this land, which had been lying idle and which was already a wasteland, being utilized for grazing purposes, the memorandum said, it would have been better had the land been “given to landless persons, farm laborers and farmers' families with small land holding in Gujarat.”
Accused the BJP rulers of eying this land “with corrupt and greedy intention”, the memorandum said, it was with this intention that the amendment to the 1960 Act was brought in. By bringing the amendment, the government has decided to hand over “land to industrialists and the rich, instead of the eligible needy classes”, it said.
The memorandum explains, the amendment asserts the following words – "or for the allotment for industrial purpose or for the development thereof or for any public purpose" – after the wordings "for ensuing the full and efficient use” of land. It comments, “With this amendment, the concept behind the provisions made in original Act, has been changed.”
The memorandum says, “This amendment reflects the changed mentality of the government. The earlier governments were for emancipation of weaker-backward classes of society. However, the present government wants to make industrialists and rich richer. It will no more mandatory for the government to allot the land acquired from farmers under the Land Ceiling Act to the landless.”
It adds, “It can now allot it to big industrialists and rich people to enhance industrial facilities in the name of development. Thus, the land acquired through the Act made for abolishing big landlords will be used to create new industrialists' and builders' landlords.”
Citing the clauses which have been changes, the memorandum says, the amendment also allows any urban local body to acquire land for public purpose if the land is situated within the areas of such local body. By adding this provision, it can convert any land for urban development without any hurdle, the memorandum says, pointing out, even here it clear that the land will not be allocated to the landless.
There is a scope created for big manipulation with this amendment, the memorandum says, adding, with this amendment it will no more be necessary for industrialists to pay premium for converting land from new tenure (land acquired under land reforms) to old tenure (having the the provision of pre-land reforms period).
“New tenure land is converted to old tenure land only after the payment of premium prescribed by the government. Instead of that, builders-industrialists would be able to be able to acquire new tenure land worth crores without paying any premium”, the memorandum says.

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