17 June, 2021

A Law To Fumble Through Harmland

Land acquisition is a minefield the govt hopes to step gingerly past

Sanjay Rawat
A Law To Fumble Through Harmland

The BJP-sponsored land acquisition amendment was passed in Lok Sabha in a politically polarised environment. Unfortunately, what is seen at play is the usual politics of opportunism and obfuscation over an issue that affects every citizen­—land, its acquisition, its loss. To get a land acquisition law that delivers justice to the land-loser and growth for the ordinary citizen, we must begin with an honest appraisal of past and present.

First, we need a clear understanding of the past. Since no government has ever provided any account of land acquisition after independence, what we know has been put together by activists and researchers: some 50 million acres were acquired, and some 50 million people affected. Those who gave up land got very little in return: for the Hirakud dam project of Orissa, commissioned in 1957, some 1,80,000 acres were acquired, displacing 22,000 families, but the amount paid out was as little as Rs 50-200 per acre. And there was no resettlement or rehabilitation. All sections of society were affected, but those affected most were the...

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