Ranchi, Sept. 2: The “historic” land bill passed in Lok Sabha on August 29 has failed to cheer up stakeholders — industry, land crusaders and the government — in Jharkhand.
They doubt whether the new law would at all help expedite long-pending acquisition/transfer of land for different private and government projects.
A senior official with the state revenue and land reforms department said Jharkhand was going to “suffer” in the wake of the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill.
According to him, the bill will affect several mega steel, power and aluminium projects proposed by the likes of ArcelorMittal, Reliance Group, JSPL, JSW, Hindalco Industries Limited, Abhijeet Group, among others. Some of them have been lobbying for land for over five years now, but have failed to strike a deal either directly with villagers or through the government’s existing acquisition routes.
“Project costs are likely to shoot up as the new law suggests two and four times hike in land rates in urban and rural areas, respectively. Moreover, Jharkhand is one of the major coal producing states and the Coal Bearing Area Act will continue to pose hurdle in mining projects. The new act also proposes consent of minimum 80 per cent of landowners and it may go up to 100 per cent if state wishes so. The acquisition will remain a problem in Jharkhand,” said a government official, requesting anonymity.
He added that Jharkhand had been offering good compensations in case of private projects wherein land was acquired through the Consent Award Rules.
In 2011, the state government had framed the Consent Award Rules, under which companies are expected to get consent of all the affected villagers of an area before setting up projects there. Further, they are supposed to offer mutually agreed rates, which in some instances range from Rs five lakh to Rs 10 lakh per acre.
Moreover, a few draconian land rules, which feature in the Ninth Schedule of Constitution, remain valid.
Tribal land crusader Dayamani Barla, who fought against land acquisition for ArcelorMittal and Koel Karo projects in the past, said villagers wouldn’t get much, despite the proposed land rate hike.
“The problem is the minimum valuation rates for plots in rural areas fixed by the state government are meagre. In some mauzas, rates are less than Rs 1,000 per decimal. Moreover, the government’s resettlement and rehabilitation wings lack manpower and infrastructure. I don’t see much change in the scenario in Jharkhand,” Barla said.
She added that the state should not adopt the lease clause of the new law. Under the clause, farmers, who are not willing to sell their land, may give their plots on lease basis. Barla said corporate and state officials might use the clause to fool people in the tribal-dominated state, where majority were illiterate.
R.P. Singh, a former CEO of JSW Steel Limited, too, sounded pessimistic. “The government first needs to strengthen its land acquisition machinery and overhaul its resettlement and rehabilitation channels. Provisions of the new land law appears good, but execution has always been a problem in Jharkhand, where draconian CNT and SPT Acts exist,” said Singh, who has a long stint with Steel Authority of India Limited.
In Jharkhand, around 29.6 per cent land falls in forest category, followed by 21-22 per cent gair mazrua. Again, around 23 per cent land comes under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act. Under these two acts, direct sale or purchase of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes and some groups belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Backward Class categories is prohibited. Ultimately, less than 30 per cent land is available for acquisition through normal routes.
Projects in limbo
Around 70 projects in power, steel, aluminium & cement sectors are stuck at different levels
because of various issues, primarily land crunch
ArcelorMittal (steel) in Bokaro
NTPC (coal mining) in Hazaribagh
JSW Steel Limited (steel) in Ranchi
Hindalco Industries Limited
(aluminium) in Ranchi
Reliance Group (mining & power) in Hazaribagh and Chatra
Jindal Steel and Power Limited (steel & power) in Ramgarh
Abhijeet Group (steel & power)
in Latehar, Seraikela-Kharsawan