ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Land Acquisition and Resettlement BillSubscribe to Land Acquisition and Resettlement Bill

A Lot of Scepticism and Some Hope

After recognising the main reasons to be hopeful about the new Land Acquisition Bill, this commentary critiques two significant structural problems in the proposed legislation: first, the definition of "public purpose", especially the "informed consent" provision that has been included; second, the price setting mechanism, especially the possibility of an exponential escalation at the metropolitan edges and the creation of certain bizarre rural-urban boundaries. The article concludes by raising a basic question: If the State has been the problem in land acquisition, why is more of it the solution?

Sops for the Poor and a Bonus for Industry

While there are some positive features in the Land Acquisition Bill - the inclusion of both acquisition and rehabilitation in the same legislation, and provision for the displaced to receive a share of the appreciation in value over time - the regressive features dominate and threaten to make acquisition by industry a far more easy process that will leave the current occupants with little more than a large compensation.

The Impossibility of Just Land Acquisition

If the State holds on to the market logic and sees the challenge in land acquisition as a problem of individual will of the "affected families" whose consent has to be taken (even when it is of a high order, i e, 80%), then it can be expected that the State and its apparatus will create political conditions (read repress people, as has been the experience in the Fifth Schedule Areas) to receive the consent of individual families.

Land, Law and Resistance

So far neither the law nor the courts have been of much use to the victims of forced expropriation of land. From the point of view of subaltern agency, the Land Acquisition Bill may well end up making only little, if any, difference. What has worked so far has been the skilful integration of a multiplicity of subaltern strategies into a broad repertoire of contention that has included agitation, confrontation, mediation, violence and, not least, party politics.
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