Friday, February 18, 2011

VJAS Flays land acquisition for Butibori expansion-Times of India

VJAS Flays land acquisition for Butibori expansion-Times of India

Read more: 'Negotiations' begin for land acquisition for Butibori expansion - The Times of India

NAGPUR: Maharashtra Industries Development Corporation (MIDC) has begun negotiations to acquire land to expand Butibori industrial estate by another 1,350 hectares. However, farmers whose land has been notified for acquisition have little say in the entire affair. Though the exercise is being termed as a negotiation, a closer look at the terms and conditions shows that the parleys are anything but negotiations.

Eleven villages near Butibori industrial estate have been notified for acquisition. The land will pave way for private industries, for which MIDC acts as a facilitator.

Interestingly, land is being acquired for the second phase of Butibori even though hundreds of acres of land is still lying vacant in Butibori I and Hingna I and II industrial estates. The land there had been acquired a long time back but very few industries have come up on that land. MIDC has the right to seize those plots, and reallot them to other industries, but it has refused to so for reasons best known to it.

Meanwhile, the farmers in the affected villages are demanding a compensation at the rate of Rs 20 to 25 lakh per acre, and threatening to turn down the deal if the rates do not suit them. However, they are unaware of the fact that they don't have a choice to say no.

Even though the state government has turned to the 'negotiation' mode of acquisition, it does not stall the takeover if the talks fail. Rather, if that happens, the government will simply revert to the old compulsory acquisition method and offer the much lower notified rates. The government rates would then be binding on all villagers, without any negotiation.

For those who do not agree with this, litigation will remain the only recourse. However, suits filed in 1992 for higher compensation during the acquisition for Butibori phase I are still pending, with some of the litigants agreeing to an out-of-court settlement only recently, say local villagers.

Even as officials say that the affected villagers are demanding around Rs 10-12 lakh per acre, residents of Mandwa, Bhansoli and Tembhri villages, where talks were held on Thursday said they would not accept anything below Rs 20 lakh per acre. The team, that included officials from the district administration and MIDC, only noted down the demands and said that the final decision will be taken by a committee headed by the collector.

"If talks fail, we will take recourse to compulsorily acquisition of land by invoking the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, instead of negotiating under the MIDC Act," district collector Pravin Darade tol TOI.

"Yes, these are called negotiations but that does not give the landholders the right to refuse. They can just quote their rate and the committee will come up with the final price. If they refuse, the land will be taken over at government rates," said an official adding that negotiations just give the landholders a chance to get a better deal.

Strangely, MIDC was extremely reluctant to disclose any information about the negotiations. A senior official claimed that the collector had directed them not to allow mediapersons during negotiations. However, Darade readily provided all the requisite information.

Darade said the final rates have not been worked out yet, but it will be ensured that the landholders get the best deal on the lines of the acquisition for NTPC's power plant at Mouda. He exhorted the project affected persons (PAPS) to cooperate.

If they don't agree, the villagers may not get more than Rs 7 lakh an acre according to official rates, said Hingna subdivisional officer ( SDO) Nishikant Suke, adding that villagers should not expect valuation like on Wardha Road, as those rates are unrealistic.

Meanwhile, residents of the three villagers said they were totally unaware of the rule that the threat of compulsory acquisition still loomed large. "We were celebrating that unlike 1992 we will not have to accept whatever is doled out. But it still appears to be a take it or leave it deal," said Dilip Tekam of Mandwa village.

"There is no problem in shifting, but we should get a good price. We would be able to buy land around 30-40km away with a compensation of Rs 20 lakh an acre, or else we might have to relocate as far as Yavatmal," said Purushottam Wadge of the same village. The locals have also demanded a job for each member of the affected families.

At Bhansoli, the villagers cite the Wardha Road realty prices, which had touched a peak two years ago, when speaking about their demands. They say that the Wardha Road boom has led even far-off farmlands to become dearer. "Even if they give me Rs 20 lakh per acre, I may get suitable farmland only at Yavatmal, which is 123km away, and such long migration has its own problems," said Pravin Kamble. The compensation will also have to be divided between joint holders of the land in a family, leaving little for each person, added another villager.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari has demanded that government should issue a white paper on Hingna and Butibori industrial estates before acquiring land for an expansion of Butibori. "We will oppose the project tooth and nail. Industrialists have got user changed and are operating engineering colleges in Butibori. This is nothing but a mega scam," he said

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