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Lesson for Narendra Modi from Akhilesh Yadav: How UP govt acquired land for the Rs 15,000 crore expressway without rebellion


By NewsGram Staff Writer

As the debate over the land acquisition bill is gaining momentum across the country, the Uttar Pradesh government led by the Samajwadi Party (SP) has acquired nearly 3,000 hectares of fertile land for its six-lane Agra-Lucknow greenfield expressway project, which is worth Rs 15,000 crore, without any opposition.

According to a report in The Times of India (TOI), “While the farmer groups vehemently protested against the alleged dilution of the consent clause in the central government’s land ordinance, around 30,074 farmers in UP gave up their fertile tracts of the Indo-Gangetic plain, willingly.”

UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), the nodal agency for implementing the project said that they avoided the ‘acquisition’ process entirely. “Instead of acquiring land as is usually done, it was decided to purchase land from farmers 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,” Navneet Sehgal, chief executive, UPEIDA told TOI.

To build this flagship 302 kms expressway by October 2016, the state government needs 3,368.60 hectares of land across 232 revenue villages from Agra to Lucknow and passing through districts of Mainpuri, Etawah, Kannauj, Auraiyya and Unnao. Between June 2014 and January 2015, UPEIDA completed about 27,000 registries at the rate of about 10 in a day.

To build the longest express in the country, UPEIDA paid, till May 15, 2015, Rs 2,844.55 crore to make a purchase of 2,824.16 hectares of land from individual land owners and 303.29 hectares from government departments, almost 93% of the total land it needed.

Speaking to TOI, 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.”

Jagdamba Singh, a resident of Matariya village who gave up his land through a mutual agreement with the state government told TOI, “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.”

In Etawah’s Takha tehsil, Bakridan received 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 some cases where the landholders did not agree to sell their lands, the government used the land acquisition process as prescribed under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. The rate of compensation was same, but the beneficiaries were offered an extra payment at an interest rate prescribed within the state’s rules.

“Since the state’s purchase-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,” said Dubey.

The expressway project has given an opportunity to Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav to showcase the development work in his state. With his government being under the heavy scrutiny of the media, this will evoke good press for Yadav and his government. As the expressway will reduce travel time between Delhi and Lucknow, the trade and industrial activities are expected to thrive. As the hue and cry for the land acquisition bill continues, the UP government dodged a bullet as they were successful in claiming the necessary land without any rebellion from villagers or the opposition parties.

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS