Singur land acquisition met new Bill rules

LARR Bill 66% landowners’ consent required; in Singur,willing farmers constitute over 82%.

Written by Madhuparna Das | Kolkata | Published: October 20, 2012 1:46:30 am

LARR Bill 66% landowners’ consent required; in Singur,willing farmers constitute over 82%.

Revisiting the controversial Singur land acquisition by the previous Left Front government in the light of the new Land Acquisition,Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill shows that the acquisition of the 1,000 acres of land for setting up of Tata Motors’ Nano car factory was not flawed at all.

The draft of the LARR bill was cleared by the Group of Ministers this week and is likely to be placed in the Winter Session of Parliament.

As per the new bill,that will do away with the archaic 1894 Land Acquisition Act,the government needs to get the consent of two-thirds or 66 per cent of landowners for acquiring land meant for use by private companies for stated public purpose or public-private partnership (PPP) projects other than laying down highways.

In Singur,where land acquisition began in 2006,official records show that over 81.5 per cent farmers had given their consent for the acquisition of land by accepting the compensation cheques offered by the government. Subsequently,the percentage rose further,and at present it is pegged at over 85 per cent.

The government records show that at the time of acquiring land,13,300 compensation cheques were prepared for the total number of awardees of the land. Of them,10,800 cheques were accepted by the farmers.

Initially,2,500 cheques remained with the government,as the then Left Front government put it on record that 2,200 farmers were “unwilling” to accept the compensation cheques and 300 cheques could not be distributed due to the litigation on the ownership of the land.

Over the period of two years,around 100 more compensation cheques were handed over to the farmers,which effectively meant that 82 per cent farmers had accepted the government’s compensation for their acquired land — much higher than the 66 per cent consent as mandated by the new draft bill.

The Trinamool Congress,which was then in opposition in West Bengal,vehemently opposed the land acquisition saying that 400 acres of the acquired land be returned to the ‘unwilling” farmers. However,the then Left Front government said that “unwilling” farmers owned only 100 acres and that the government could return the 100 acres.

This was not accepted by the Trinamool Congress. After Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee came to power in the state,she made the necessary legislation — Singur Act — for the return of land to “unwilling” farmers of Singur. However,records show that till date,the farmers who have applied for getting their land back own around 100 acres. Of the remaining 300 acres,only 87 acres remain undisputed with several litigations pending in the rest of the land.

However it is to be noted that in 2011,the draft of the LARR bill had made consent of 80 per cent affected landowners mandatory for the acquisition of land. Trinamool Congress,which was then the part of the UPA II,opposed it. Now,with the Trinamool out of the government,the passage of LARR bill has become almost a reality.

“Last year,the land bill was not given a go-ahead by the UPA government as our Didi (Mamata Banerjee) did not give her approval. But now Didi is in opposition,and we are told that our party will oppose the bill vehemently in the floor of Parliament,” said Mahadeb Das,a Trinamool leader in Singur,who played a pivotal role in the movement.

However,with the legality of the Singur Act being sub-judice — it is currently in the Supreme Court after the Tata Motors challenged the law — the farmers have not been able to get back their land.

Udyan Das,a willing farmer and secretary of Singur Unnayan Committee said the affected farmers continue to suffer and expressed hope that the new Act would end the stalemate.

“According to the draft bill,the land acquisition process in Singur qualified the parameters of the present land acquisition bill. The central and state government should consider the issue now. We have been suffering here for almost seven years and we have seen an industry which was almost 85 per cent complete moving out from the area for the opposition of less 20 per cent of the total land owners.”

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