Skip to main content

Gujarat's 2015 Bill seeks to "transfer" land meant for landless, SCs, STs, OBCs, to industrial houses

Persis Ginwalla
By Our Representative
Two senior Gujarat-based activists, one of them a development professional, have alleged that the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015 is a state government effort to “undermine” the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013, whose amendments were dropped by the Centre after their “anti-farmer” character was exposed through “nation-wide agitations”.
In a discussion paper, distributed to top Indian activists, Persis Ginwalla and Sagar Rabari, associated with Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) and Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), say that the Bill, which amends four laws, the most important being the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960, has sought to “make transfer of land to industry and industrialists as easy as possible and at minimum cost to the purchasing industry/industrialist.”
The Bill, passed by the Gujarat state assembly in the absence the Opposition (it was suspended en masse) in August, is pending Presidential nod after the Gujarat governor decided not to sign it. The governor sent the Bill for a Delhi nod despite the fact that the Modi government has insisted upon states to pass their own amendments to “undermine” LARR, 2013. Already, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have followed suit.
The Congress has represented to the President, asking him not to sign the 2015 amendment Bill, as it would stop the process of transfer of surplus land to marginalized communities – SCs, STs and OBCs. According to rough estimates, there are 54 lakh landless workers who have yet to benefit from the surplus land, lying with the government.
Pointing towards the significance of the Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960, the paper says, “The rationale for the introduction of land ceiling was to end the monopoly on land ownership enjoyed by a few, and to redistribute this resource for more equitable society.”
The paper, which is perhaps the first major critique of the 2015 Gujarat Bill, says that even the Preamble makes it clear what the real purpose is -- for allotment of land “for industrial purpose or for the development thereof or for any public purpose”. It adds, there is a “problem” with the definition ‘public purpose’, wondering who will define it, Minister, Secretary, Collector, Mamlatdar, or someone else.
The paper says, the Bill talks of allowing land to be given/sold, after the payment of occupancy price for “any urban local body, for public purpose, when the land is situated within the areas of such local body”, and to “any person, for industrial purpose or for the purpose of development thereof, when the land is situated outside the areas of the urban local body”.
Suggesting tha this particularly undermines the Land Ceiling Act, which impose land ceiling on “large landholders”, and sought to distribute surplus land to “landless or small and marginal farmers”, the paper says, "This task the government never completed. With urbanisation, these unutilised lands remain vacant and have appreciated manifold in value”, adding, “The government is turning an asset of someone’s holding (the erstwhile landowner) into a tradeable commodity in the open market” enabling “some ‘favoured’ industrialists to earn landslide profits without doing anything.”
No doubt, the paper says, the 2015 Bill does seek to “make available equivalent quantum of agricultural land in the nearby vicinity”, but there are “two misgiving: Firstly, the phrase 'in the nearby vicinity' is vague and can be made to mean anything, and hence can be rendered useless. Secondly, the value of land within city limits and the price of land outside city limits, even if it is an equivalent quantum, cannot be compared.”
Yet another amendment, the paper says, stipulates that “... any land allotted either under clause (v) or (vi) of sub-section (1) of section 29, to any urban local body or any person respectively shall be of old tenure”, which suggests that the land “given under tenancy Act, Ceiling Act and Bhoodan lands, which were to ‘new tenure’ land regulations”, would be deemed as “old tenure.”
The paper comments, “This amendment removes this safeguard and brings this valuable asset within the ambit of the ‘land market’. Moreover, automatic conversion to ‘old tenure’ means that the premium amount for conversion is no longer payable. Can this be construed as yet another ‘subsidy’ to industry in the name of ‘growth’ and ‘development’?”
The paper says, the “most appalling of the amendment” is the district collector being allowed to come to the conclusion that if “the purchaser has failed to commence production of goods or providing of services within the period as specified”. In such a case, the land would “vest in the state government on payment to the purchaser of such compensation as the state government may determine”, and with the government having the right to dispose of the land “as it may deem fit.”
Comments the paper, this empowers the “district collector to determine the cost incurred by the industrialist in failing to use the land, and to pay such compensation to him/her.” This way, “the government is ... making it mandatory for itself to ‘rescue’ a rogue industrialist who fails in his/her undertaking to put up an industry and to compensate him/her 'adequately and appropriately’.”

Comments

TRENDING

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.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Jharkhand Adivasi lynched to death by mob "chanting" Jai Shri Ram: Fact-finding team

Counterview Desk
On April 10, 2019, Prakash Lakda, a 50-year old Adivasi of Jurmu village of Gumla’s Dumri block, was lynched to death by a mob of men from the Sahu community of neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries due to the beating by the mob. A fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the incident on April 14-15.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.

Election Commission suffering from worst-ever "credibility crisis": Ex-bureaucrats

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, a group of ex-bureaucrats have lamented ‘weak-kneed’ responses of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Citing various violations of the model code of conduct, and pointing towards how ECI has taken little action, the letter asks the President to tell ECI to “conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned.”