Thursday, April 07, 2016

Land acquisition in Odisha: How lurking gap between R&R policy, implementation is "diluting" pro-farmer law

By Our Representative
Giving evidence from a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on land acquisition and resettlement processes in Odisha, a recent study has noted serious slips between policy statements and performance on ground, providing enough space to “bolster” dilution of pro-farmer provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (LARR) Act, 2013, recently sought by the NDA government.
While the amendments were dropped last year, it is well known, several state governments, the latest one by Gujarat (click HERE), have gone ahead by coming up with their own laws to undermine LARR, 2013, by doing away with crucial consent and social impact assessment clauses.
In a paper this year in the “Journal of Land and Rural Studies”, a Sage publication, Himanshu Upadhyay, who is Faculty, School of Development, Azim Premji University, Bangalore, and Nazma Sheikh, a post-graduate student, have revealed serious “lapses and failures” during land acquisition process that “denied whatever little space for objection available to oustees”.
In fact, the study, titled “Policy versus Performance: Auditing Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation in Odisha”, highlights “how land acquisition bureaucracy provided undue favours to industries”, pointing towards huge “gaps in accountability.”
Referring to the performance audit of implementation of Odisha R&R Policy (ORRP), 2006, the study says, CAG test-checked records related to 32 industrial projects spread across 13 districts, finding that 6,533 families were “displaced by loss of cultivable land and 35,632 families were affected by loss of homestead land and livelihoods.”
“These projects had taken a toll of 36,555.18 acres of land, some of which haven’t witnessed the realisation of ‘public purpose’ even after a decade”, says the study, adding, even though ORRP has provided for “setting up of an effective grievance redressal mechanism at the district level, no specific mechanism was followed at the Collectorate level to receive grievance petitions’.”
Himanshu Upadhyay
In fact, CAG found that “the Collectorate merely acted as a post office from where ‘grievances related to R&R were forwarded to the project authorities for consideration, but no follow up action was taken’,” the study notes, adding, “Audit findings showed that there existed a huge backlog of unresolved grievances: ‘out of 2,222 grievances received, only 880 were settled’!”
According to the study, CAG also refers to how the Socio-Economic Surveys (SESs), “intended as guides and bases for preparation of relief and rehabilitation plans”, were “deficient” – observing SESs were “not made public in all cases and hence this mechanism had failed to invite objections, thereby leading to diminished scope of public hearings.”
The study, quoting CAG to say that that “in respect of 15 out of 32 industrial projects, SES reports were prepared but were not approved by the Rehabilitation and Periphery Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC) and hence, the R&R plan for affected families was not prepared.”
“If an affected person is not rehabilitated as per the provisions of the ORRP, then should it be regarded as violation or a mere grievance is a moot question”, the study wonders, even as quoting CAG to say, “The State level Council of Resettlement and Rehabilitation has met only once on June 18, 2008 in all these years.”
In fact, the study says, CAG’s scrutiny of records of “meetings at the department level also revealed that during the nine departmental meetings held between April 2012 and June 2013, 294 issues related to land acquisition were discussed, while only 42 R&R-related issues were taken up.”

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