While the debate over the toffee model of land acquisition in Gujarat—Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi accused Narendra Modi of selling land cheap to his cronies, at the price of a toffee—and other states continues to rage, there are some other solutions that need to be tried if industrialisation is to go ahead across the country. The original model of land acquisition, it is obvious, was problematic since the land-losers never got the market value—the land’s value may have gone up after it was acquired and developed, but that didn’t help the land-losers. Indeed, since such land acquisition was often accompanied by force, various courts including the Supreme Court have struck down several such acquisitions. The Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (LARR) Act tries to address this, but causes even more problems since, apart from jobs for land-losers, alternate housing also needs to be provided. As the industry secretary told a group of industrialists last week, the LARR Act had ensured that no large industrial/commercial projects could take off.
In such a situation, the best option is that of land pooling and master planning. Under this model, tried successfully by the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC) in its Dholera project in Gujarat, land is acquired from farmers only for developing what is called trunk infrastructure like roads, power plants and the like. The land is then zoned and earmarked for different facilities. Under this proposal, the farmers end up getting back anywhere between 60 and 70% of their land. Since the land is now earmarked for industrial/commercial use, its value goes up and the owners are free to sell or retain it—in other words, should the farmers so choose, they get the upside from their land. Selling even this idea to farmers is not going to be easy, especially in today’s surcharged atmosphere, but this offers the best deal for all concerned.