No dispossession without development: Jayant Sinha

Acquiring land without offering jobs and opportunities for landowners’ families is simply not possible in the country, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said on Saturday, echoing the views of Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, who said present-day Indian politics make instantaneous and coercive dispossession of land impossible.

“Dispossession without development under the land acquisition law of 2013 and today’s political economy is simply not possible. Compensating them [land owners] four times the market value [of land] is well-established, but it’s not enough, because in the political economy of India today, nobody will give up land without getting a job,” Mr. Sinha said.

“Jobs and security are vital; otherwise dharnas, hartals (protests) begin and it’s not possible to move forward. People will prostrate themselves in front of excavation equipment and not allow you to proceed,” he noted, adding that resettlement efforts need to inculcate empathy for the landowners for whom the loss of land is a “traumatic change”.

Politicisation of land acquisition efforts make it doubly hard to arrive at a common ground as land is an “emotive issue” that is easy to polarise people over, Mr. Sinha remarked at a discussion during Oxford University’s first South Asia Conclave held in the capital.

Mr. Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha members, said that most of the political debate focuses on the Central land acquisition law while most land for coal, the Railways and power projects, was acquired under other legislation.

Contentious law

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had amended the country’s contentious 1894 Land Acquisition law in 2013 and introduced four key pillars, which were missing in the original legislation, around compensation, consent, social impact assessment (SIA), and resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) measures.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had issued an ordinance to amend the law that was seen as difficult for investors, but it did not follow through with legislative changes.

Political debate has focussed on consent and SIA norms, said Mr Ramesh.