Is economic growth and social equity mutually exclusive? This is one of the most pertinent questions of our time. While infrastructural development and monetary growth are important for our country, it cannot be at the cost of the people, it cannot be at the cost of the farmers, and it cannot be at the cost of the poor. The Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (LARR), is designed to protect the farmers and the poor from exploitation by rich corporates and public private partnerships. It is our belief that we must enforce this Act and ensure it is implemented to the true letter of the law.
As it stands today, the state is guilty of possessing significant land banks acquired for either public or social purposes, that remain completely unused. The loss to farmers’ capital appreciation is immense – especially in the last decade when India’s economy was booming. The 2013 Land Act – implemented by the UPA – provides for the return of un-utilised acquired land, within a period of five years. The LARR Act was purposefully constructed as pro-farmer, not pro-corporate – following the UPA’s legacy of pro-farmer land acquisition policies. The process for land acquisition under the Act involves a Social Impact Assessment Survey that offers a series of checks and balances prior to allowing the land to be acquired. For instance, there must be a preliminary notification stating intent for acquisition, compensation has to be given by a predetermined date, and rehabilitation and resettlement must be provided to the affected persons.
In terms of the compensation, the UPA government insisted on fair compensation for both rural and urban areas, hence for rural areas the rate must be four times that of the market price and two times for urban areas. In such cases where the land is being acquired by private companies or in the cases of Public Private Partnerships, the organisation must receive consent from 80% of the displaced people. In these cases, the corporate must also provide rehabilitation and resettlement to the displaced peoples. The Act was designed in a manner that would make land acquisition both fair and equitable, it benefits the farmers immensely and ensures their land cannot be acquired without their consent – this should apply even in cases when the farmer is unable to repay loans, their land is theirs and the government must find alternate methods to recover the loan.
In a country where 70% of the population lives in rural areas, the LARR is incredibly important, especially to safeguard people from losing what is rightfully theirs. The benefits of LARR is for the poor, for the farmers and for the marginalised. The fight that it took to pass the LARR Bill was completely worth the effort because the people that will reap these benefits are the people who need it most, the people that the Congress will never leave behind, the people that helped build this nation and the people that will do so long after we are gone.