Acquisition of land without development, providing jobs and market-linked compensation was not possible in Indian politics, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said on Saturday. Stressing that taking away land was a “traumatic experience” for people living in villages, Sinha said resettlement and rehabilitation of affected people was very important while acquiring land.
“When land acquisition is done, rehabilitation and resettlement plays a critical role. It requires people to be very empathetic and understanding, which in our states is a big challenge,” he said. Sinha was speaking at a debate on land acquisition and special economic zones organised by Oxford University Press as part of its South Asia Conclave 2017. “Dispossession without development under the 2013 (land acquisition act) and under Indian politics was not possible,” Sinha said, while commenting on an upcoming book on land acquisition experience in Rajasthan by Johns Hopkins University’s Assistant Professor Michael Levien.
Levien’s book Dispossession without Development: Land Acquisition in Neoliberal India, is based on 13 months of systematic ethnographic research on large trends, with field work in a place in Rajasthan. Levien disagreed with Sinha and argued that there are still many places in India where land acquisition happens through coercion. Acquisition of “land, how do we grow, how do we create jobs and how do we urbanise — these are some of the practical challenges we face as we go about our economic development,” Sinha said.
Speaking at the same event, Congress leader and former Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said that “it’s true that the Indian politician will make forcible dispossession of land very difficult.” Ramesh said in future Indian may not need to take recourse to the land acquisition laws as parties may decided to acquire land through bilateral negotiations or take land on lease.
The bulk of land acquisition in India was not done under the Centre’s land acquisition law but under separate acts, he said. For example, land for rail, power and coal projects were acquired under separate laws, he said. The Constitution empowered the states to frame their own land acquisition laws and states like Tamil Nadu and Telangana has enacted laws that have somewhat diluted the provisions under the central law.
Land conflicts in India were regionally and sectoral varied. While there have been many successful experiences of land acquisition in India, acute land conflicts are typically seen in cases where large scale displacement is involved, in acquiring land for mining, irrigation projects, Ramesh said. Land acquisition was also tough in Central India and among tribal population, he added.