Now I would have not known about this issue being developed in India and the world, If I had not given some exams recently. The question itself was the first one in terms of lending money to farmers and corporate houses to “reform” the agricultural system in India. WTO and international hedge fun organizations are forcing in this regard. As after the “real estate” bubble burst, they feel this is the next avenue for investment.

The whole interest of the corporates for land in production of crop raises doubts and cynical thinking in my mind. One can certainly not forget how “East India company” practically ate India. The Indigo farming which destroyed most of India’s land, which eventually led to Mahatma Gandhi’s champaran march in Bihar. There are some serious issues that need to be seen first. There would be little doubt that one considers private sector as India’s savior in job market and in terms of upliftment of the life-style. Land however is completely a different story, land is the most important resource for mankind after drinking water.

Providing land to others is like a potential suicide for farmers, not just for small scale farmers. The trend which is more worry-some is about different countries buying land to do farming. China and Saudi Arabia have already purchased so much land in Africa. The target being India, gives jitters to me. Will we be living the horrors of our past. ? Already the article of land purchasing by govt which dates back to 1894 is causing so much headlines.

This new policy of giving corporates to grow food is a big scary situation. This would mean that one institution being given absolute right, that institution on top of it having no accountability whatsoever. Private sector is driven by profits and for that it is well known that they might shift towards bio-fuel. Then what would happen to food securities, naturally the rates would go up, adding to chaos where rates are already sky high. As the food production will be low. At least in form of a government people have an entity who they can question or vote out (talking about democracy of-course). When the companies will buy land and to farming there, that accountability would be lost.

The small farmers or  the middle range farmers will have hard time. Rather than allotting the complete land to the corporates why doesn’t the corporates talk to farmers, with government as the watchful eyes. In order to make sure that issue of less food doesn’t turns out to be a huge one. More importantly a country like India needs to first feed its own rather than allot land to those who might send the food outside. The govt, if and when does this could be pressurized to stop export but corporates have no such limitations.  One feels the corporates should be involved in retail and distribution, rather than food production. (which I believe should be their foray as it would lead to organization of an unorganized sector.). Plus there are other sectors where they could do more, rather than food production. No body wants a James Bond movies type situation like we had in Quantum of solace.

Now many would see the statement as anti-corporation. It is not, it is just pro-people like me who have no control over price rise and who do-not grow any food. One does-not wishes to be arm twisted in paying more money. There are already so many problems in India regarding the present situation of land grab, such policies would just aggravate the situation. The farmers are already suffering from different quarters.

For acquiring any land in India, one needs to go through the land act of 1894. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894 is a legal Act in India which allows the Government of India to acquire any land in the country.

Generally, every parcel of land belongs to some individual or group of individuals and they have legal rights to own the land. These individuals are free to use their land according to their will or to sale their land for monetary or other advantages.

However, at times land is needed for some community purpose i.e. it serves needs of the society as a whole like roads, canals, government offices, military camps etc.

“Land Acquisition” literally means acquiring of land for some public purpose by government or government agency as authorised by the law from the individual landowner(s) after paying some compensation in lieu of losses occurred to land owner(s) due to surrendering of his/their land to the concerned government agency.

Acquisition of land by the government for public purpose or for the companies is governed by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The word “Public Purpose”, as defined in the Act mentioned above refers to the acquisition of land for putting up educational institutions or schemes such as housing, health or slum clearance, apart from the projects for rural planning or formation of sites.

“Appropriate Government” would mean the Central Government if the purpose for acquisition is for the Union and for other purpose it is the State Government. It is not necessary that all the acquisition has to be initiated by the government alone. Local authorities, societies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and Co-Operative Societies established under the Co-operative Societies Act can also acquire the land for developmental activities through the government.

Certain procedure has been envisaged under the statute, which has to be mandatory followed before acquiring the land for public purpose, as discussed below:

 History of Land Acquisition Act

In India in 1824 British government for the first time enacted regulation I of 1824(for land acquisition).its application was throughout the whole of the Bengal provinces immediately subject to the presidency of fort William.

The rules empowered the government to acquire immovable property at a fair and reasonable price for construction of roads, canals or other public purpose. In 1850 some of the provisions of regulation I of 1824 were extended to Calcutta through Act I of 1850, with a view to confirm the title to lands in Calcutta taken for public purpose. At that time railways were being developed and it was felt that legislation was needed for acquiring land for them also.

Building act XXVII of 1839 and act XX of 1852 were introduced to obviate the difficulties to particular cities of Bombay and madras.

Act VI of 1857 was the first full enactment, which had application to the whole of British India. It repealed all previous enactments relating to acquisition and its object.

Subsequently act x of 1870 came in to effect which was further replaced by land acquisition act 1894 in order to purge the flaws of act x of 1870.

“LAND ACQUISITION ACT-1894” is a well defined, self contained efficient act for facilitating land acquisition process.

After independence in 1947 Indian government adopted “land acquisition act-1894” as a tool for land acquisition.

Since then various amendments have been made to the 1894 act from time to time. Despite these amendments the administrative procedures have remained same.

Special powers of section 17

Section 17 of the Act confers special powers with the concerned authority wherein passing of award may be dispensed with and yet permits to take possession of the land notified for acquisition. Further holding of enquiry can also be waived, as envisaged under section 5 A of the Act. However, such powers can be exercised only in case of urgency. After passing of the award, the person whose land has been proposed to be acquired can give his consent for such acquisition and agree to receive the compensation.

Objections can also be raised against the measurement of the land, enhancement of compensation or apportionment of the compensation by filing a written application before the Deputy Commissioner, as provided under section 18 of the Act, requesting the authority to refer the matter to the court for determination of the grounds raised in the application. An application to that effect has to be filed by the person who was personally present when the award was passed, within six weeks from the date of the award passed by the Collector. In other cases, the application will have to be made within six weeks from the date of receipt of the notice issued under section 12(2) or within six months from the date of the award passed by Deputy Commissioner, whichever is earlier.

This specific section 17 been used and abused by many in govt and judiciary for own purposes, thereby subduing the rights of the rightful owner, the farmer.

This new approach of land grabbing is going at a fast rate as 40 million hectare of lands and being garbed. The more important aspect is the adequate compensation is not being provided nor is the ecological issue understood. The govt in world especially ASIA and Africa are selling in $100 billion worth deals. The UN agriculture safeguard organization is proposing a code of conduct for land acquisition. The problem is also that no doubt that India needs flashy new homes to show case it to the world as the emerging economic superpower,but the cost should not be food. The fertile land being brought at cheap price is an alarming sign, not only for poor farmers but middle class and upper middle class who will be hit by high food prices. As multiple crop harvesting lands are being brought.  The golf courses which would be made on these lands would help create many international golfers but these golfers would also need food. Excess of everything is harmful.

The land grab for agriculture for corporates have another drawback. Suppose that they buy the land today for farming but later turn it into a real estate project, could they be challenged. The contract would say that they brought the land and are landowners and could do anything with it.  Forgive me if the words come out strong but that would be an exact replica of colonial time (which we as nation tried to forgo in our independence struggle), by using terms like modernizing and upliftment as proxy to get the job done. One feels the approach is not right. There needs to be a policy which needs to be planned where the local population which is living there does not feel thrown out, by being arm twisted on the bases of using various exploitative laws.

Land is usually an emotional subject for most people as it provides them livelihood. It is a source of existence for many communities. Native Americans suffered due to this land grab in US, where many hollywood bigshots had to come forward to raise voice for their right. One such was Marlon Brando. He showed how land of American Indians was being grabbed for selfish purposes.

Now the objective is not to target any group or corporate houses (both are important entities for growth of country), but surely both the parties should benefit along with those whose food needs should be addressed by the govt. I know there is lot at stake, but from the pictures emerging is that the farmer, poor and middle class  are the ones who have more at stake. One’s issue is identity, another’s existence and the latter one’s is food.