Skip to main content

Gujarat land bill: Only surplus land in urban bodies to be "acquired", as it "can't be used for agriculture"

Gujarat state assembly
By Rajiv Shah

Contradicting the claims of Gujarat-based activists and the Opposition Congress, a senior Gujarat government bureaucrat has told Counterview that main purpose of controversial the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015 “is to transfer surplus land, lying idle, within municipal corporation and municipality bodies, for public purpose”, and “not to take away land meant for Dalits, tribals and other marginalized groups, as is being made out.”
Sharply reacting to the critical view taken on the Bill, the bureaucrat, who was involved in drafting it, but refused to be named, said, the term “public purpose” is pretty well-defined – “it does not mean handing over land to any industrial house, as is being made out, but to transfer the idle land for, say, creating a solid waste recycling site.”
The bill is currently lying with the President of India for his final nod after the Gujarat governor decided not to sign it, apparently taking note of the possibilities of sharp reactions against it. The Congress recently represented before the President, asking him not to sign the Bill, as it would “stop” the process of transferring surplus land to 54 lakh landless agricultural labourers, mostly Dalits, tribals and OBCs.
The Bill was passed in controversial circumstances in the Gujarat state assembly, after the entire Congress opposition was suspended on the second day of the two-day House session, held this August.
The bureaucrat said, “What the detractors of the Bill fail to understand is, a lot of surplus land, acquired decades ago, is lying idle in the state’s urban areas. Our only propose is to utilize this land for public purpose. It makes little sense for allocating surplus land, lying in municipal corporations and municipalities, to be handed over to the landless, as you cannot have agriculture in urban areas.”
The bureaucrat claimed, “There is no provision in the Bill which seeks to transfer surplus land, lying idle in the rural areas, to the industrialists or even for any purpose.”
According to him, the only important amendment for the rural areas is “to acquire a particular plot of land coming in the way of implementing an industrial project already being set up, and hand over, in lieu of that, a land of the same size to the farmer within the vicinity.”
“This is a major amendment and a win-win situation for both farmers and industrialists”, the bureaucrat said, adding, “This amendment would ensure that the farmer does not lose the land, as he would get it elsewhere within the vicinity, and also that it would facilitate industrial project to be implemented as quickly as possible.”
The bureaucrat denied that the Bill in any way contradicts the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, whose amendments were dropped by the Government of India following protests. More recently, Niti Ayog vice-chairman told states to frame their own land laws to “bypass” LARR.
“While some states (Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu) may have amended their land laws to provide precedence of their state laws over LARR, Gujarat has still not thought about what to do about it. We haven't even begun the process”, the bureaucrat said.
Meanwhile, Sachivalaya insiders admit, certain provisions in an earlier law, the Special Investment Region Act, 2009, “help” the Gujarat government to not only undermine LARR, but acquire land through its town planning Act, which makes it “mandatory” to hand over 40 per cent of agricultural land under a designated urban area for the sake of creating urban infrastructure.
“The provision has been applied to Dholera SIR, the 900 sq km area proposed as smart city, situated about 90 km south of Ahmedabad city”, a top insider in the chief minister's office (CMO) said.
The insider, however, added, “While notices may have been served to farmers, we believe it was a mistake. We have decided not to go ahead with them, as there is a strong thinking in the government that it was a mistake to having made such a provision in the SIR, as it would adveserly affect an area which is largely largely agricultural.”
Particularly blaming those at the helm of affairs of the state industries department in the Gujarat government then, the insider insisted, “Those who pushed for it in the government little realized the problems it would create to the farmers, on one hand, and to the state government, on the other.”

Comments

TRENDING

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Why crib? 4.5% is far better than pre-1980 'Hindu rate of growth': Subramanian replies

By Rajiv Shah
Even as sticking to his original argument that India's gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 has been overestimated by 2.5%, renowned economist Arvind Subramanian has said in a fresh paper that his estimate of post-2011-12 growth rate at around 4.5% is surely not "implausibly low", as some of his critics have been arguing following his controversial June paper.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

UP's Sonbhadra killing of 10 tribals highlights 'failure' to implement Forest Rights Act

Counterview Desk On July 17, as many as 10 people, including three women, were killed and 28 injured when a village head and his supporters opened fire on a group of tribal farmers in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. While the firing took place following a clash between over a land ownership dispute, it reportedly highlights failure of officials enforce Forest Rights Acts (FRA) and Survey Settlement in favour of tribals.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.