LARR Bill 66% landowners’ consent required; in Singur, willing farmers constitute over 82%.
Revisiting the controversial Singur land acquisition by the previous Left Front government in the light of the new Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill shows that the acquisition of the 1,000 acres of land for setting up of Tata Motors’ Nano car factory was not flawed at all.
The draft of the LARR bill was cleared by the Group of Ministers this week and is likely to be placed in the Winter Session of Parliament.
As per the new bill, that will do away with the archaic 1894 Land Acquisition Act, the government needs to get the consent of two-thirds or 66 per cent of landowners for acquiring land meant for use by private companies for stated public purpose or public-private partnership (PPP) projects other than laying down highways.
In Singur, where land acquisition began in 2006, official records show that over 81.5 per cent farmers had given their consent for the acquisition of land by accepting the compensation cheques offered by the government. Subsequently, the percentage rose further, and at present it is pegged at over 85 per cent.
The government records show that at the time of acquiring land, 13,300 compensation cheques were prepared for the total number of awardees of the land. Of them, 10,800 cheques were accepted by the farmers.
Initially, 2,500 cheques remained with the government, as the then Left Front government put it on record that 2,200 farmers were “unwilling” to accept the compensation cheques and 300 cheques could not be distributed due to the litigation on the ownership of the land.
Over the period of two years, around 100 more compensation cheques were handed over to the farmers, which effectively meant that 82 per cent farmers had accepted the government’s compensation for their acquired land — much higher than the 66 per cent consent as mandated by the new draft bill.
The Trinamool Congress, which was then in opposition in West Bengal, vehemently opposed the land acquisition saying that 400 acres of the acquired land be returned to the ‘unwilling” farmers. However, the then Left Front government said that “unwilling” farmers owned only 100 acres and that the government could return the 100 acres.
This was not accepted by the Trinamool Congress. After Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee came to power in the state, she made the necessary legislation