as the debate over the land acquisition bill threatens to boil over
across India, the Samajwadi Party-led government in Uttar Pradesh has
acquired nearly 3,000 hectares of fertile, multi-cropped land for its
sixlane Agra-Lucknow greenfield expressway project without a murmur of
At a time when farmer groups were registering their
protests against the alleged dilution of the consent clause in the NDA
government's land ordinance, 30,074 farmers in UP were giving up fertile
tracts of the Indo-Gangetic plain, willingly , and, in many cases, in
So how did this speedy acquisition for the Rs 15,000 crore project happen?
By keeping farmers happy, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav
told TOI. When UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA),
the nodal agency for implementing the project, set out to acquire land
for the developers of the expressway project, it decided to avoid the
contentious "acquisition" process almost entirely . "Instead of acquiring land as is usually done,
it was decided to purchase land from far mers through a mutual
agreement. To make the transaction more lucrative, land owners were
offered four times the circle rates (CR) in rural areas, and twice the
CR in urban parts, as purchase cost. Acquisition was only considered in
cases where mutual agreement failed," said Navneet Sehgal, chief
executive, UPEIDA. The government's flagship 302-km expressway is a
six-lane (expandable to eight) access controlled greenfield project, the
longest in the country till date. To build it by October 2016, as the
chief minister has promised to do, the UP government needs a total of
3,368.60 hectares of land cutting across 232 revenue villages from Agra
to Lucknow, and passing through the districts of Mainpuri, Etawah,
Kannauj, Auraiyya and Unnao. In the 270 days between June 2014 and
January this year, UPEIDA completed about 27,000 registries at the rate
of about 10 a day, arguably the fastest yet, for a government-run
expressway project of this magnitude.
To achieve this, UPEIDA
paid, till May 15, 2015, Rs 2,844.55 crore to make an outright purchase
of 2,824.16 hec tares of land from individual land owners, and 303.29
hectares from government departments, almost 93% of the total land it
needed. Assistant CEO UPEIDA, Ashutosh Dubey said, "The government set
up rate fixation committees under the chairmanship of the district
magistrate to arrive at a mutually agreeable rate. After the approval of
the CEO, land owners were given four times, or twice the CR depending
on the location of their land. Apart from their land holdings, owners
were also compensated for permanent structures built on their land, and
for unharvested crops."
When TOI contacted land owners who gave
up their land through a mutual agreement with the state government,
reactions were mixed. In Unnao, which falls under segment 5 of the
expressway project and is being developed by Larsen & Toubro
Limited, Jagdamba Singh, a resident of Matariya village, confirmed he
had received four times the circle rate. "My village was on the
Unnao-Lucknow border, but on the Unnao side. My compensation, as a
result, was paid according to the prevailing DM circle rates in Unnao.
The neighbouring village that falls in Lucknow, however, received a
higher compensation. So even though I got four times, I felt cheated,"
In Etawah's Takha tehsil, Bakridan begum walked
away with a compensation of Rs 8.91 lakh for selling 2.5 bighas of land
held in her name. Her son, Naseem Khan told TOI, "We used about Rs
98,000 for a wedding in the family. We are also in advanced stages of
talks over the purchase of additional agriculture land with the
compensation money we received." In both cases, Singh and Khan said
their families will remain invested in farming and did not plan to use
the surplus funds to diversify their businesses.
Not all land
holders, however, were agreeable to selling their land to the
government. In such cases, UP opted for the land acquisition process as
prescribed under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement
Act of 2013, and acquired 160.28 hectares of land. Here, while the rate
of compensation remained the same, beneficiaries were offered an extra
payment at an interest rate prescribed within the state's rules. READ ALSO: Lucknow-Agra e-way to have 8 lanes all along the stretch
The benefits of the dual model -acquisition plus purchase -were many .
"This model allowed UP to facilitate land transfer to developers in
record time, Dubey said. Since the state's pur chase-acquisition process
started in June last year, UPEIDA now has a land pool of 3,287.73
hectares of the 3,368.60 hectares it needed; that's 97.6% of the land it
needed, organized in less than one year.
The success of the
Agra-Lucknow "expressway" model of acquiring land through mutual
agreements and through the acquisition route has now been extended to
other construction projects as well. "It is a smoother, faster process.
More significantly, though, farmers and land holders get a much better
deal for their land than they would if we went the acquisition way .
That would have been also much more time-consuming,Dubey added."
Politically , too, the Lucknow-Agra expressway project is expected to
yield big benefits for the Samajwadi Party .With chief minister Akhilesh
Yadav FOCUSING on "doubling the speed to triple the economy", the
project not only reduces travel time between Delhi and Lucknow, but also
promises to become a hub around which industrial activity can flourish.
More significantly , at a time when the land acquisition legislation
remains a controversial, hot button issue, UP has charted its own course
with the expressway .
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