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J&K needs progressive Land bill
11/13/2017 8:51:39 PM
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

From the last several
years the work on six laning of Jammu Srinagar national highway is under progress. Right from Lakhanpur to Srinagar, Government has acquired thousands of acres of land for this purpose. Reputed construction companies like AFCON , RAMKAY have been given contracts for this work. I am not going to discuss about the way these companies are working on the project , but my aim is to create awareness among the people on a different issue that is related to payment of compensation to affected families during land acquisition process.
Agricultural land has been acquired in villages located on the both sides of National Highway. In small and large towns commercial complexes, residential houses , shops and business establishments have been bulldozed. If we compare the amount of compensation being paid to people in other states for the same six laning of national highway (under North- South corridor project) , it is 2 to 4 times more what the Government has or is paying in Jammu & Kashmir. Why this disparity ? the reason is obvious , J&K state follows the obsolete Land Acquisition process as the new version of Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) is not applicable in our state.
New Land Acquisition Act?
The New Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) was enacted by the Congress lead UPA Government in the year 2013. The discussions on Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement bill (LARR Bill) had been going on since 2011 and the draft of this bill was also made public before the new law got enacted in 2013. The idea of enacting new Land Acquisition Act by UPA Government was mooted after the Singur agitation in West Bengal many years back when that state was ruled by communists. During that time local residents of Singur along with many activist groups plus present CM Mamata Banerjee had opposed the establishment of TATA Nano car manufacturing project. The poor farmers whose land was being acquired were paid very less compensation by the authorities. The West Bengal Government lead by Communist Party finally decided not to go ahead with that project due to lot of public resentment.
On December 31st 2014, the Union cabinet headed by PM Narendra Modi recommended an ordinance on new Land Acquisition Act to amend the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act (LARR-2013) enacted by Congress led UPA Government. The Union Government had claimed that aim of promulgating the ordinance was to "ease " the process of acquiring land meant for various development projects in different states of India. The Government of India had planned to convert the said ordinance into a full-fledged legislation by making many amendments in the 2013 Land Acquisition Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act (LARR Act). The Modi Government could not succeed due to various reasons and finally the said bill was kept in a state of suspended animation. There was lot of opposition over this move from farmers and opposition as well. The Government did not get support for the passage of the amendment bill in Rajya Sabha as well. The Union Government wanted to scrap the provision of LARR 2013 ( UPA version) wherein farmers , gram sabha , local residents are to be consulted while acquiring the land. If the majority of the people don't want to give their land to Government or any other firm / company, the land could not be acquired. As the Modi Government wanted to appease the corporate community, the said amendment was planned , but finally Government failed to go ahead with these amendments under tremendous pressure.
Compensation under new Land Act
The new Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR- 2013 ) is not applicable to J&K state in view of special constitutional status granted to our state (article 370) . As on date the land acquisition in Jammu & Kashmir is undertaken under the archaic J&K Land Acquisition Act which was promulgated by the Maharaja Hari Singh in the year 1934. The absence of new land acquisition law has caused huge loss to those citizens of the state whose land or property has been acquired or going to be acquired by Jammu & Kashmir Government for various developmental projects like construction of new highways , road widening, construction of flyovers, buildings etc. Under 2013 Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR-2013) which is enforced in all the states of India except J&K, the compensation paid for acquired land is 4 times more than market value of land / property ( in rural areas) and 2 times more (double) in urban areas. Had our state enacted a similar land bill in J&K, those people whose land has been acquired in Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Udhampur, Ramban, Banihal, Anantnag, Awantipura and other areas located on Jammu Srinagar highway would have been paid 4 times more compensation. Not only people living near national highway would have been benefitted, but the new "Land Bill" would have been beneficial for all those families , individuals whose land or property has been acquired by Government or any other company during construction of roads, flyovers , factories, parks, gardens , stadiums etc.
Tail Piece:
If affected people get 2 to 4 times more compensation from Government for their acquired land in other states across country, why shall residents of J&K be denied such a fair compensation? If National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) or Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) pays FAIR compensation (2 to 4 times more than market value) to people in Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, MP, UP and other states during construction / widening of national highways, why shall people of J&K be deprived of similar fair compensation?
I want to make it clear that we are not deprived of fair compensation by the central Government, but the fault is ours as our state has not so far enacted this law in J&K. Under new Land Bill the affected families are provided jobs, and are rehabilitated as well , but due to non applicability of this law in J&K, the affected families are the worst victims. Neither they get 2 to 4 times more compensation nor are they rehabilitated or resettled.
Very soon an alternate road link is coming up that will connect Pampore with Ganderbal via Chadoora -Budgam and Narbal. This Semi Ring road project is around 60 KM long which starts from Gallandar Pampore and ends at Manigam in Ganderbal. The said highway is actually planned to easy Army movement from Jammu to Ladakh. Lot of agricultural land will be acquired in Pulwama, Budgam, some parts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Ganderbal districts. In the 1st phase, Gallandar to Narbal road construction will be taken up and then in the 2nd phase Narbal -Manigam road link will be executed. Most of the affected district will be Budgam where around 4000 kanals of land will be acquired very soon. In Ganderbal 2341 Kanals of land will be acquired. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) will be executing this project and the said authority has been already directed to deposit the required funds into the accounts of respective Deputy Commissioners (DCs) as the process of payment of land compensation can be started. But due to absence of a progressive Land Acquisition Law, affected families especially the farmers won't be able to get fair compensation of their acquired land. Now the farmers of around 40 villages of Budgam district under the banner of "Samaj Behbood Committee" have got united. They are demanding that Government should provide compensation 4 times more than the actual market value of their land. This can be achieved only if Government passes an ordinance followed by a legislative process on enactment of new land bill in J&K.
Previous Government failed to enact this law in J&K in-spite of the fact that their coalition partners Congress enacted this law at national level. We hope present Government will do justice with people of J&K by bringing the new land bill on the pattern of LARR 2013 in the upcoming session of state legislature. Before the said bill is tabled in state legislature, Revenue and Public Works Ministers must ensure to hold a series of consultations with the various stakeholders across state. I appeal civil society groups, NGO's to come forward and start lobbying with the Government so that they bring this historic bill in state.
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