Land acquisition Act and the reality of acquired land

Modi Government takes the ordinance route for the sixth time in seven months to water down the Land Acquisition Act. Among the clauses removed include the required consent of 70 per cent of affected landowners and social impact assessments. One of the oft-quoted reasons for lack of industrial growth — shortage of land — has been used to sell these changes as ‘achhe din’ to the larger public.

But a recent investigation by NDTV had proved these claims to be wrong. It focused on state-level Industrial Development Corporations, whose primary role is to acquire land and ready it for industrial use. Data was obtained for five major states- Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Between them, these states had acquired 5,72,793 acres since their inception. Of this, a huge 2,55,471 acres — about 45 per cent — has not been allotted to any industrial projects. It is worth bearing in mind that the figure doesn’t include the land occupied by units which have fallen sick, but the owners continue to ‘squat’ on the plots they have been allotted.

Maharashtra, for instance, despite an unallotted bank of 1,00,000 acres of land, is in the midst of acquiring land for its leg of the ambitious Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

Even Gujarat, billed as India’s premier industrial destination, has shown a record not unlike that of other states. Of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation’s land bank of 1,03,784 acres, only 50 per cent has been allotted.

Such statistics sure are no music to the ears of the Modi Bhakths, but the continued attempts to dispossess small landowners in the name of industrial growth and nation building needs to be opposed, when the Government and industry is squatting on such a large area of acquired land.

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