Finding Solution to the land problems outside the Land Acquisition Bill

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Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink is a saying from The Rimeof the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and is used to suggest that despite being surrounded by something, you cannot benefit from it. The same is the scenario in India where there is abundant land butwe are neither able to see the same nor able to utilize. The eyes are going to the crop yielding land of the farmers and in mega displacement, which in the today’s age of information is difficult to achieve by fooling the farmers.

If you make them part of this growth story, then yes it may be possible. India is a country which buys its defence equipments from the foreign private companies but did not allow its domestic private players to venture in it. Reason you can always have some illegitimate understanding in the name of the defence of the country. The projects like Commonwealth games which could have been an opportunity to build sports infrastructure in the country on the one hand and showcase our nation to the rest of the world on the other. Rather it was wasted in not building even a single new infrastructure and buying things at 100 times of price to get kickbacks. This all and many other things result in generation of black money which in turn got invested in the land, building and gold.

The prices of all three things increased manifold in last 10 – 15 years. People left the basic entrepreneurship and focused on the land business alone to make money. The end result was the wealth of the nation got sucked into most unproductive assets viz land, building and gold.

People in India are so much fond of buying sand and earth. When the Govt policies give rise to the hope of multiplying money from this source, the race would become even more severe. When the Govt and the leaders of the nation themselves start indulging in reckless investments in land and building, the others just start blindly following them as a herd of sheep because they know that those who are formulating policies are putting their own wealth in this means this is going to multiply sooner than later. This lead to a blind race and people run mindlessly to not to miss the opportunity.

Another good decoy was used in the name of SEZ. It was meant to get land for setting up of Export Oriented Unit. All these SEZ ultimately became a mean to get a Change of Land Use (CLU) and get into a housing and shopping Mall business. The black money was getting pumped and prices of land and building was skyrocketing. Ordinary people also started putting their money to not to miss the bus. We can see a jungle of concrete and no one to live in. Flats flats everywhere not a family to live. On the other hand the poor and hapless are being forced to stay in the gutter.

Governments pamper these people by building great roads so that their expensive Mercedes-Benz and BMW sedans rush past the ruins of the demolished hutments where the poor eke out a living. They drive away peasants from their fertile lands so that the wealthy can build their bungalows and private gardens. The police is set on to pavement dwellers because they are such an eyesore to the upper-class. Poor people flock to cities in search of a better life and corner patches of land, smaller than the space occupied by a rich man’s sedan, for their entire families; but are still chased away. Water is driven away from the countryside so that these gluttons could have their fountains.

The poor either go thirsty, die, or flock to the city to be servants, gardeners, and cooks to the privileged. When the PM strives for bigger things – for bigger cities, magnificent infrastructure, wider roads, better ports, larger ships, increased trade improved business, making a name among the nations of the world, making one’s country the richest in the world – he tends to forget something basic.

He tends to forget his people, whilst pursuing all the goals which comprise the utopian fantasies of the upper-class. He thinks glittering cities mark progress; he forgets about the people who live in gutters. When he gives lavish banquets, he forgets that most of his people have nothing to eat. In the light of what has been discussed above we would strive to find out some solutions to the problems of land beyond the Land Acquisition Bill which is bone of contention in the Indian Polity. The following points need consideration for the proper understanding of the problem.

  1. The State Govt already have a huge land bank with them. We should first try to utilize the existing land bank of the State. Then only the new land can be considered.
  2. If we make a study of the closed down industries we will find that lakhs of hectares of land is stuck with them.While these erstwhile industrialists are sitting pretty on the idle land waiting for a chance to make fortune by getting the land conversion. The State Govt should use the land for industrial purpose alone. If at all the CLU is to be considered the entire benefit must go the State whereby the cost of alternate land acquisition can be borne to find out new Industrial

Cluster.

  1. The concept of land pooling should be used more often by which the willing farmers or aggregators get 40 to 60 percent of the developed land and the rest can be used by the Govt for public utility or for other priority sectors. This will ensure that the farmers or the aggregators will also become partner of growth and development story. There will not be any bad blood that the same is being used as a tool to grant benefits to the near and dear ones. At the same time no cost will have to be incurred for land acquisition by the Govt.

  1. Most of the time Govt of the day try to acquire the land lying on the main highway or the one which is well connected. There is bound to be some bad blood as someone who has been keeping his land for so long at recently developed area, the benefit should go to him. This was exactly what happened in case of Singur Land acquisition in West Bengal. Huge land parcels normally remain available 8 to 10 km inside the main highway which is not developed. The price is also negligible. For a State Govt developing a 8 to 10 km of road and other infrastructure is a very trivial issue. This will lead to win win situation for all. Already developed place people will be happy that Govt has not touched their land. The new place people will be happy as that area will attract much bigger price. Investor will be happy as he will get land at a reasonable rate. Govt can do everything with satisfactionof all.

  1. The misdirection given by the successive Govt, people of the country are putting their hard earned money in two most unproductive asset.One being the Gold and the other being the Land and buildings. The political leaders, corrupt bureaucrats also put their illegitimately earned wealth in these assets. Most of these land and buildings are purchased in Benami. Govt should immediately start tagging the land and buildings with Aadhaar Card. This will have multi pronged advantages. On one hand the illegally kept land will come to fore which will make enough land available. It will also reduce the number of people under BPL as it will reveal assets in their name. It will reduce litigation in the courts as most dispute relate to land and building. It will also reduce murders and other crime as disputes regarding land would not be possible. The last but not the least is the possibility of starting dematerialization of the land and building which will enable their transactions like shares.

  1. The Govt has allowed erstwhile royal families, Trusts owned by them, other Trusts to hold land and building in their names. The travesty is that they are not being subjected to any kind of tax by the Govt. While a common man is Liable to pay all taxes on a small flat of say less than even 1000 sq ft. These big fish are allowed to retain thousands of hectare of land in their or the Trust name without any such liability. In olden time while the money lender used to lend money to the farmer, kept the papers of the land but wanted to only take the crop at cheap rates but not the land. Only reason was that the land was subject to payment of annual land revenue, which used to be a daunting liability. If we start taking the tax on these land and building and palaces owned by the Royals or Trust holders huge land will come in the market for sale and the prices would reach in the affordable range for the common man. Otherwise while thousands of hectares lie vacant in the precincts of the city, the common man is forced to stay either in the gutters or slum or in the remote areas. The Trusts have been given enough advantages in Taxes.Now all kind of taxes should be equally imposed on these Trusts and royal palaces and land and building owned by them. If they come up with any meaningful public purpose Govt may consider to give them grants to meet those cherished objectives.

If the aforesaid recommendations are adopted and implemented by any Govt they will never have the dearth of land for setting up any manufacturing cluster or for public purpose or for affordable housing. The land and building and Gold which are hitherto considered as an Asset in the society should be made a Liability beyond a point of necessity.

 Unnecessary mindless investment of money in these assets would come down. Then only we will also be able to say that as in New Jersey where you can get a class 3 acre bungalow in less than a million dollars, one can also afford the same luxury in the same or less amount of money, here too. Flats with all facilities would be so cheap that it will come in the range of a common man. Then only the agitation against the Land Acquisition will come to a halt.

Then only the land and building will start getting used and no concrete of jungle would be built only for investment purposes. Then only the real industries will thrive and no hidden agenda of CLU will be able to get through by keeping the actual land owners in dark. Then only the dirty tricks of the corrupt politicians, corrupt bureaucrats and unscrupulous businessmen will come to an end. Then only the Govt of the day will be able to say that they are really working for Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.

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The author can be contacted on his Email address suroliaparivaar@gmail.com. You can also follow him on his Twitter Handle @Sanjeev_Surolia and @IndianAtulP You can also visit the blog www.surolia.in

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