Published On : Mon, May 14th, 2018

Maharashtra govt gets rights to grab tribal land for corridor

Mumbai: The Opposition in Maharashtra is determined to block a hush-hush Ordinance promulgated by the Maharashtra government recently, which gives the state arbitrary powers of land acquisition. The State government is facing huge hurdles in completing its ambitious project to connect Nagpur to Mumbai – the so-called Communication Super Express Highway.

It is a dream project of Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis but has been marred by recurring protests and threats of suicide. The State government is in a tearing hurry to acquire land by any means, so that it can showcase the super expressway project just before the general elections.

The Ordinance needs to be endorsed by the House but that can only happen in the Monsoon Assembly session, which begins in July. That gives the State a window of two months to forcibly acquire land. However, Dhananjay Munde, the Leader of opposition in the Legislative Council, gave an unambiguous warning to the government on Sunday. ‘‘We will die but will not allow state government to acquire land forcibly from farmers.’’

As per the fifth schedule, tribal land cannot be acquired for any project without a resolution being passed by the concerned Gram Sabha (the consent of majority of the villagers). The amended law on land acquisition, however, gives the State government the right to forcibly acquire land even in tribal areas which are the hub of the farmers’ protest.

Under the Ordinance, it is mandated that compensation for land acquired should be at least four times the registered or ready reckoner price. This will now be applicable to even those farmers who did not voluntarily provide their land for the project. “So far we have purchased land from farmers by consent. But from now on we will directly acquire the land from farmers who have not come forward to sell theirs. However, they can still volunteer to sell their land and receive five times the value of the land,” explained a senior MSRDC official to a mainstream publication.

The MSRDC has acquired around 80 per cent of the land required. “We have bought the land for most part of the alignment but we might need to apply the amended law for acquiring around 1,900 hectares of more land. We propose to complete this in the next two months,” an official was further quoted as saying.

Official from the Public Works Department said that the tracts of land that remain to be acquired are mostly in Shahapur and Nasik. The state government had tabled a bill – the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Maharashtra Amendment) Act — in March this year during the budget session. When the bill failed to clear the Opposition hump in the State assembly, the State cabinet on May 8 adopted and approved an Ordinance that will facilitate speedier land acquisition.

The enforcement of the existing legislation was hampered as either some farmers did not allow their land to be taken over for the project; or they did not participate in the land pooling scheme, even when offered a lucrative price for their plots; or they were not ready to engage in direct negotiations with the government.

With the land pooling not working out, the cabinet took a decision to approve the amendment in the Land Acquisition Act and promulgate an Ordinance to enable the MSRDC to acquire land even farmers were not inclined.