MUMBAI, Feb 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A northern
Indian state is setting up a "land bank" to allow farmers to
voluntarily sell property in an effort to tackle forced
acquisitions for industrial projects that often lead to violent
The Haryana government on Thursday said it would create a
land bank to buy land from willing farmers. Owners may apply to
sell voluntarily on an online portal, and the state will then
buy the land at an agreed rate if it matches their criteria.
"Under this concept, there will be no forcible land
acquisition. This will be a win-win situation for the
government, as well as the sellers," Chief Minister Manohar Lal
told reporters, without giving any other details.
Conflicts between farmers and states have risen as demand
increases for land for industrial projects to boost India's
A land acquisition law passed in 2013 was meant to protect
the rights of farmers, ensuring consensus in any land
transaction, rehabilitation for those displaced, and
compensation up to four times the market value.
But several states have since introduced laws to speed up
acquisitions that dilute several of these protections.
A land bank may aim to protect farmers' rights, but in
practice may only benefit the state and developers, said E.A.S.
Sarma, a land rights campaigner.
"In the Indian context, 'voluntary' is a misnomer, as most
acquisitions are accompanied by a degree of intimidation," he
told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"If a government official comes with the police and asks
someone to give up their land, that's not voluntary."
Conflicts related to land and resources in India have
stalled industrial and development projects worth billions of
dollars, and affected millions of people, according to a recent
NITI Aayog, a government think tank, had proposed the idea
of a public land bank to lease land to landless cultivators.
Land owners can deposit land in the bank and potential
cultivators can lease the land they need, paying rent to the
agency that will pay the owner, it said in a 2015 paper.
The model does not suit industrial projects, said Sarma, and
there have been few moves to adopt the system.
Land acquired for industrial use is coming under greater
scrutiny in India, with the Supreme Court earlier this month
asking seven states why much of the land bought for special
economic zones is lying idle.
(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Ros
Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
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