Sunday, September 03, 2006

Swaminathan Aiyar: "How not to displace people"

In his column in today's ToI:

... We need a new displacement strategy for justice and equity. What are the key issues?

First, government acquisition is at the supposed market price as reflected in recorded sales. But recorded sales often understate the real price to evade stamp duty, so the market price can be a great underestimate.

Besides, if a private developer tried to acquire lots of land, he would have to pay several times the recorded price of recent transactions. Forced acquisition at the historical price is partial confiscation.

Second, land records are woefully inadequate, and fail to list people who have cultivated land for decades. So, many villagers get no compensation at all. Third, callous and corrupt officials refuse to disburse compensation without bribes.

Payments can be incomplete and highly delayed. Fourth, when entire villages are displaced, villagers lose access to local forests, streams and grazing land. They get no compensation for this.

The makeshift settlements into which they are herded often lack basic amenities, or job opportunities within walking distance. Fifth, even when compensation is paid, the sum is often frittered away by families that have never handled large sums.

They have no steady income stream, and lose their livelihood and dignity. They are transformed from owners to refugees. Sixth, the land acquired cheaply by the government is often resold at stratospheric prices to industrialists.

At Kalinganagar, land was acquired from tribals at around Rs 30,000/acre, but sold to Tata Steel at Rs 3.35 lakh/acre. Outrageous! ...