The recent changes in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, by the Maharashtra government have slashed the compensation for land acquisition for national and state highways by almost 50%.
The revenue ministry, headed by senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, issued notifications on October 6, 2021, and January 14 changing the compensation amount. The Act allows states to modify the rules by issuing a notification.
The January 14 notification has introduced a new formula which slashes the compensation for non-agricultural (NA) land from four times the market value to half. Besides, the market rate will be reduced by another 20%.
Under the old formula, the owner of a 1,000 square metre (sq m) land in a village located in front of a highway would have been compensated with Rs 32,00,000 at the market rate of Rs 800 per sq m (1,000 sq m x Rs 800 x 2 + 100% appreciation = Rs 32,00,000).
Under the new formula, the same landowner would be awarded compensation of Rs 12,80,000 with no 100% appreciation of the value and 20% reduced market rate (1,000 sq m x Rs 640 x 2 = Rs 12,80,000).
Farmer organisations have vociferously opposed the notifications. “Land is the only possession of farmers. If the government wants to acquire our land for some larger interest, it should adequately compensate us. By slashing the compensation, the state government has done what the [Narendra] Modi government wanted to do in 2015,” Ajit Navale, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha, Maharashtra, told Newsclick. “We demand immediate withdrawal of the notifications.”
When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government enacted the Act in 2013, thousands of protests were held across the country with several affected people facing police brutality. When the Modi government tried to amend the Act in 2015, then-Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi vehemently opposed it in Lok Sabha by terming it as “Suit Boot ki Sarkar”.
Ironically, Congress is now part of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government in Maharashtra. According to farmers, the notifications have exposed the party’s double face. “We will vehemently oppose any project for which land has been acquired under the new rate. The Congress should publicly clarify its stand on the issue. Otherwise, the already diminishing credibility of the party will be further hit,” Raju Shetti, farmer leader and former MP, told Newsclick.
Newsclick tried to contact Thorat but he was unavailable for comment.