Noble laureate Daniel Kahneman has established that the confidence we have in our beliefs is no measure of their accuracy. This has been clearly demonstrated by the amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill.
Before the government begins on an acquisition binge, it needs to tabulate its own unused lands.
In all probability there are over 2 lakh hectares of land lying with various government or public sector units, that can be made available immediately for private sector industrial expansion.
These entities will not cede control of their lands willingly and the government could be worried about dispossessing their own unused lands for the private sector for fear of agitation from trade unions and political parties or CAG notings.
I have not included the 1 lakh hectares of land owned by the Indian Railways, which should be capitalised to fund railway modernisation and expansion. In neither of these tabulations have I included defence lands and wasteland.
It may appear the government wishes to fund new highways by selling land for industrialisation and to colonisers along the new expressways, where they want to construct.
“Nothing wrong with that, but the clause to acquire one kilometre of land on each side of the highway for development is plain right foolish. It makes the government appear more like a property developer or someone under the influence of property sharks, rather than being a force seeking development or wanting to create jobs.”
On this one issue, industrialists and my fellow farmers are all flummoxed. So as farmers we propose our own amendment:
Industrialists want to locate close to urban centres and have fast access to the site of development. Being on the highway or in the city is not the priority. Understanding the difference, the government should have proposed not to acquire land up to 5 kms on either side of the highway or within 50 kilometres of municipal limits.
It would be easy to add a few kilometres of expressway connectivity from the main highway to these development hubs. Such a development would deliver more inclusive growth in the back regions.
Further from the highway and the municipal limits, it would be easier to secure the farmers consent.
Normally the circle rate decided by the revenue department of the state government is accepted as market rate in case of acquisitions. In most cases the circle rate is same for an administrative block and does not differentiate between locations close to or away from the highway.
The circle rate for land within 1 km of the highway will invariably be far less than the actual market potential of the land and farmers will be unwilling to part with the same.
“As we move away from the highway or municipal limits the cost of land reduces drastically. The amendments also stipulate four times the market value to farmers on acquisition. So farmers with land 5 km away from the highway or further from municipal limits, may feel adequately compensated to entice a willing consent for acquisition.”
UPA made a choice, now it is BJP’s turn to decide between economists’ complicated theories or the farmer’s common sense.