Land acquisition issue in India – A stumbling block

In a crowded country like India, the land acquisition issues are likely to stay on for all time to come

In a crowded country like India, the land acquisition issues are likely to stay on for all time to come
In a crowded country like India, the land acquisition issues are likely to stay on for all time to come

Government’s efforts on Land acquisition: What are the hindrances?

Several major and minor industrial and infrastructure projects and proposals for highway road construction have been stopped or indefinitely delayed in recent years due to protests and agitation by the local people and inevitably supported by some politicians with a vested interest. Such projects that were stopped or suspended include oil/ gas exploration, petroleum refinery, mining, which are all essential for India to forge ahead in industrial and economic growth.

Several farmers and tribal people who have protested against such projects complain that they would be evicted from the area where they have been living for several decades and their source of livelihood could be severely disrupted if their land would be acquired and they would be deprived of their ownership. While the government or private bodies who seek to acquire land pay compensation for the land acquired, the affected people lament that such compensation amounts are not a substitute for the permanent and long-term source of livelihood that they have enjoyed in the past. The rupee compensation paid cannot relieve their problem in the long run, particularly in the present conditions of the rising cost of living.

At the outset, it has to be pointed out that in most cases, there is good justification for the protest by the farmers, tribal people, and the local residents against land acquisition for projects.

Alternate view

The economists, industry promoters as well as government agencies argue that such acquisition of land is necessary for implementing projects of far-reaching significance.

Overall benefits that the country would achieve by implementing projects, far outweigh the sufferings and problems faced by a small group of people. There is a need to take a holistic view on such matters. This appears to be an uncharitable view, that ignores the plight of people, however, small in number they may be, and most of them belong to lower-middle-income groups.

In a crowded country like India, the land acquisition issues are likely to stay on for all time to come.

Other options

While implementation of infrastructure projects is necessary, the government has to find an alternate method to implement them without acquiring agricultural land, since the forcible acquisition of agricultural land can be costly from the point of view of larger social interest and human welfare.

The government has to identify land all over India, which are barren land or dry areas to implement such projects.

There are many industrial projects operative in India, where the substantial area of land remains unutilized for several years with no immediate plans for utilizing them. Many project promoters are known to acquire more land than what they require for immediate or long-term use, keeping the surging real estate value in mind.

There is also a number of educational institutions and universities, which have large surplus land areas unused for several years. Most of such land has been acquired by educational institutions at a subsided price by government allotment in poramboke land. (the land which is not included in the revenue record and is outside the revenue accounts.)

Further, there are many hopelessly sick industries that have not been in operation for many years and they have huge areas of land that can be put to use.

What is required is that government should identify such barren and wasteland as well as surplus and unused land available with industrial houses, educational institutions, and sick industries.

A careful study would indicate that there are thousands of acres of unused land in India where industrial and infrastructure projects can be set up, avoiding the acquisition of agricultural land and disturbing the local residents.

This is possible to do so if earnest efforts would be put forward.

A recent case study in Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu, several projects have been stopped due to land acquisition issues.

It is now reported that more than 3000 acres of agricultural land are proposed to be acquired for setting up an industrial estate in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu[1]. This has evoked protest from the local farmers. This issue is avoidable, as it indicates a mindless move to acquire agricultural land for building an industrial estate, without taking reasonable efforts to identify the appropriate location, where no agricultural operations are carried out.

Where land acquisition becomes absolutely necessary?

Of course, there are some projects which have to be located only in a particular area which may be agricultural land but nevertheless, this is the only area suitable for such a project.

For example, the Government of India permitted a gas exploration project in the delta region in Tamil Nadu, where thousands of acres of agricultural farms are there. Crude oil deposits are estimated to be available in this region even as it is not available in many other regions.

In such circumstances, the government has to make earnest efforts to convince the local farmers and residents about the importance of the project from the national perspective and provide them lifelong compensation.

Instead of a lump-sum amount in one stroke. The government may consider providing equity share in the proposed companies to the local residents, which would enable them to share the long-term prosperity of the company. Even this would not be enough. The government should go further and provide regular life-long pensions for the families of the owners of the land at the time of acquiring land.

Pragmatic approach

What is required is a pragmatic approach by the government and the project promoters with regard to the land acquisition issue. When the protests are made by the local residents, they should not be merely treated as law and order problems. The cause of protest is genuine in most cases.

Finally, in the event of the government at the state and central level unable to convince the farmers to give up the land for acquisition accepting appropriate compensation, then the right stand for the government would be to go by the views of the farmers not willing to give up their land possession.

Such an approach would be a case of the government giving up the economic cause for the sake of a social cause. This is appropriate in the welfare society that India is.

Further, while conceiving the project details, the priority should be the availability of non-agricultural land before taking a firm investment decision. In other words, the project should not be decided without being convinced about the availability of non-agricultural land or getting the approval of the local population.

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.


[1] District administration to acquire 3,800 acres for industrial parkSep 18, 2021, ToI

PGurus is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with all the latest news and views

For all the latest updates, download PGurus App.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here