Thursday, August 18, 2011

Land trouble brewing

Farmers of Noida and Greater Noida should get higher compensation for their land

Sopan Correspondent / New Delhi

The raging controversy over land acqusition in Noida and Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh has given rise to a new set of problems.
Recently, the Supreme Court had uphled Allahabad High Court decision that the Greater Noida authority’s acqusition of land under urgency clause was wrong and hence illegal. The court ordered that the land should be given back to farmers in Shahberi.
This has led to a flurry of litigations in which villages after villages knocked the court’s door to reclaim their land, some of which acquired more than a decade ago.
The uncertainty over land has threatened to jeopardise the two development authorities — Noida and Greater Noida townships.
Farmers allege that their land was acquired by the authorities at a cheaper rate and sold to builers at a exhorbitant price.
However, at the receiving end of this controversy is another section, the home buyers who are mostly from the middle class. They were attracted by the low prices of flats which were on offer in Noida Extension, an area located in between Noida and Greater Noida.
The current problem is the making of the state government. Large tracts of land were purchased at cheaper rates, in some cases, forcibly without listening to the objections of the farmers. The state government over the years has failed to compensate farmers or gave their rehabilitation benefits.
There is a truth in farmers’ allegations. If you visit Noida, amid the opulance and affluence, one can see pockets of penury and impoverishment. These are the areas once owners of the whole area reside. There are no electricity, adequate water supply or other amenities.
Farmers in Noida say hike in land compensation has not been proportionate to hike in market land rates. Farmers argue that the present land compensation rate is Rs 1,000 per sqm, but the market rate ranges between Rs 17,000 and Rs 60,000 per sqm.

The authority's land rate, which was Rs 120 per sqm in 1976, has touched Rs 17,000 per sqm today.
In 1976, people were hesitant to buy land in Noida, but today investors are ready to pay five times the price fixed by the authority to buy a piece of land as appreciation has been over 100% every year in the last few years.
They were promised 5% of land in return for the land acquired from them. Even after 20 years, many of them have not got the rehabilitation benefits.
But the most worrying aspect is that most farmers who had reclaimed their land from the authority wanted the land not for agriculture. They wanted to sell the land at a higher price. This will create a crisis as rapid urbanisation has triggered a crisis on the food front. Farming area is shrinking. Governments are grab land from farmers and sell it to private enterprenuers at a cheaper rate.
One of the major reasons for unrest in rural areas of India is the land grab. There should be a balance between urbanisation and farming. If there is a progressive decline in area under cultivation it will have serious ramifications.
In the context of Noida and Greater Noida, it is a different story altogether. Farmers call for a higher compensation is valid and should be given without any compromise.
The state has been insensitive to their demands for the last many years. Even the land they were putting up after the state grabbed their farm land has been declared illegal. So they ended up as ‘eyesores’ in the so-called City of Hope.
The new land Bill, which may be placed before Parliament will be a great game changer. The Bill says that the government will never act as a property dealer between private players and farmers. If the governement acquires land, then it should give four times the market price for the land. This will make the land acqusition difficult for future governments.
In Noida and Greater Noida, the government should immediately call farmers for negotiation and give them compensation at a higher rate. The state government should be more sensitive to their demands as the former had grabbed their land and livelihoods from the poor farmers.

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