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CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

 

ARTICLE
S.P. SHUKLA | 9 JUNE, 2015

LAND ACQUISITION DEBATE: A CRITIQUE

  1. We have been following the mainstream opposition parties’ debates and opposition to the recent moves of the government to dilute and subvert the legislation pertaining to land acquisition and related issues enacted in 2013. The approach to the issue, in our opinion, must be distinct from the simplistic slogan of reverting to 2013 legislation, which is what many opposition parties/ movements are asking for. Apart from the superficiality of that slogan, it is also fraught with a tactical trap. It is possible that the government with its back to the wall may concede in a tokenistic way or even substantially, in part, the opposition demand viz; the restoration of the provisions regarding “consent” and “social impact assessment”. That will take the wind out of the sails of the opposition. And yet the main problem which the long- drawn countrywide resistance to land- grab has highlighted over the last two decades will remain unattended and may even worsen.   It is, in our opinion, most important to put the issue in its wider context and mobilize political support for immediate as well as medium- and long- term measures that will not only provide immediate relief but also attack the root of the problem.

  1. While we are totally opposed to the government moves diluting and subverting the 2013 legislation, we believe that the whole question of land acquisition is only a small subset of the bigger Question of Land. The 2013 legislation puts the issue in a narrow and symptomatic context of the claims of current land owners/ land dependents vs  the claims of the industry and infrastructure promoted through private and public agencies. There is no doubt that this issue needs to be sorted out equitably. The 2013 law seeks to do that largely within the paradigm of market rationality. It is important to realize that peasant/adivasi resistance to land-grab raises far more fundamental issues that transcend the issues of consent and compensation. These issues include the socially optimal way of utilizing the non-reproducible natural resource like land ( and minerals); the rampant distortions inherent in the market processes, particularly fueled by speculative finance capital; virtual impossibility of finding a practical method of equitable sharing of private speculative gains; the social desiderata of ensuring food security and preserving environmental and ecological balance;  and, not the least, the social disequilibrium inherent in the large scale dispossession and pauperization of peasantry and rural folk in the context of rapid concentration of wealth , resources and power in the hands of a few corporate magnates. It is important to realize that the wider issues can not be resolved unless the dogma of “ market rationality” is completely subordinated to the doctrine of “social rationality”.

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