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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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