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

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Rejoinder: Worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima is fading, slowly and steadily

By Dr KS Parthasarathy* 
EAS Sarma, former Secretary, Government of India (GoI) in a letter addressed to the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), GoI, stated that, there has been "worldwide anxiety about the consequences of catastrophic nuclear accidents, either due to manual lapses or natural calamities" (Counterview, December 2, 2018). "In the recent years, globally, the pace of growth of nuclear power has escalated in leaps and bounds, causing a great deal of public concern and apprehension."

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).