Friday, May 1, 2015

Clearance of Stalled Project And Role Of Consent Clause In Land BIll

Is Land Acquisition the prime reason for stalling of Projects? Data says ‘No’-Source News laundry

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Finance in reply to an RTI application, only 8% of all the stalled projects are because of Land Acquisition reasons. The reasons for 1/3rd of the stalled projects are not known.
The amendments to the Land Acquisition act (Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act) are being touted by many in the Government as a game changer in triggering growth. It is also being publicized that Land Acquisition has been stalling projects and hindering growth & investments. The Economic Survey 2014-15 also has a special chapter dedicated to stalled projects where it talks in detail about stalled projects. The details of such projects were not annexed to the report.

RTI activist Mr. Venkatesh Nayak filed an application under the RTI with the Ministry of Finance seeking details about these stalled projects like location, type of project, ownership (Public/Private), reasons for stalling of the project etc. The Ministry replied promptly with all the details about the 804 projects that are stalled as of February 2015.
Where are the projects stalled?
The 804 projects that are stalled are across 24 States and two UTs for variety of reasons. Maharashtra with 125 stalled projects topped the list followed by Gujarat (63 projects), West Bengal (55 projects), Karnataka (52 projects) and Telangana (52) making the rest of the top 5.
Land Acquisition Bill - Number of Stalled Projects in States as of Feb 2015
Type of Ownership
Out of the stalled projects, 78% are Private Sector projects while 22% are by the Public Sector (like Central/State governments, PSUs etc).
Land Acquistion Bill - Type of Ownership Public vs Private
Is Land Acquisition the Prime Reason?
According to the data, only 8% or 66 of the 804 projects are stalled due to Land Acquisition related problems. In other words, not even one in ten projects is stalled because of problems related to Land Acquisition. The data is in complete contradiction with what the advocates of the Land Acquisition ordinance have been saying, that the land acquisition process is holding up a lot of projects and hindering growth/investments.

About 39% of the projects have stalled due to unfavorable market conditions or lack of funds or raw material or fuel supply problems. The list mentions the reason as ‘Others’ for 19% of the projects while no reason is available for 15% of the projects. In other words, we do not know the reason for 34% or 1/3rd of the stalled projects. And yet, the government wants us to believe that Land Acquisition is the biggest issue.

Only 4.2% of the stalled projects were pending because of environmental clearances whereas lack of clearance from the State Governments amount to 11.8% of the total. In other words, only 16% of the projects are stalled because of regulatory clearances. Apart from these, there are other reasons like natural calamity etc for about the remaining 3% projects.
Land Acquistion Bill - Major Reasons for stalling of Projects
Type of Projects
It is also said that the amendments to the Land Acquisition are to promote development for the poorer sections like affordable housing, rural electrification etc and hence they are being exempted from consent & social impact assessment. But of the 66 projects stalled for land acquisition reasons, only 11 or 1.36% of all the projects directly relate to the well being of the poor & disadvantaged sections like Slum Rehabilitation, Budget Housing, Bus Stand etc. In other words, welfare of the poor looks like an alibi.
On the other hand, at least 145 of the stalled projects, about 18% are for the affluent and the rich class. These are projects involving construction of Shopping Malls, Elite Hotels, Resorts, Multiplexes, Elite residences/villas, Golf Courses, Racing Tracks etc.

Another 25 stalled projects are about setting up townships- nothing in the list provided by Ministry of Finance indicates which segment of society they are intended to benefit. However, it must also be said that the list of 804 projects also includes power generation, airport construction or expansion, road and railway expansion, pharmaceutical, textile, software and SEZ projects amongst others. Mining projects for coal and uranium amongst other metals are also part of the stalled projects list.
Missing Data
The data does not have information about how long these projects have been installed condition. It also does not say if these are the only projects that are stalled across the country. The data also does not mention the value/cost of all the projects stalled.
Interestingly, the data provided under the RTI act and also in the Economic Survey 2014-15 are based on inputs provided by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Ltd. (CMIE). CMIE is a private sector business information company. We do not even know if the government has done anything to cross check the veracity of this database.
  • RTI reply from Ministry of Finance
  • Data Analysis by Venkatesh Nayak
Featured Image Source: Arabinda Mahapatra

My Opinion on above information

These data about stalled projects relates perhaps not to the regime of NDA government led by Mr. Modi. These cases appear to pertain to UPA period when there was policy paralysis. Mr. Modi has brought amended Land bill to cater to proposed infrastructure projects, defence related industries, rail lines, rural housing etc. Projects which are even now in planning  stage will take real shape only after availability of land is ensured.

It is important to mention  here that only in the state of Jharkhand ,34 MOU were signed by government of Jharkhand and out of which only 17 have started operation and 20 are pending for execution in want of land. .Most of stalled projects are related to power generation and from private sector. Similarly numerous projects coming under private or public sector are pending in various states due to many reasons , one being non-availability  of land also.

In my opinion , government should avoid using Land bill for use of private business entities until it is inevitable due to some urgent reasons and until it is well established that it is in the larger interest of the society.  Government  cannot dream of rural housing or industrialisation of rural areas until adequate land is acquired. And quick growth is possible in any state only when process of land acquisition is made easier.But in no case land which are used for farming can be or should be acquired unless and until it is unavoidable . Only barren land or unirrigated land can be and should be acquired for normal industrialisation and for normal work. Private entities should be left to acquire land at their own as far as possible and only public utility services should get priority in land acquisition.

Government and local authorities should make a survey to find out and assess how much land may be acquired without affecting the livelihood of farmers. Land bank may be formed in line with concept of Blood bank functioning in all big towns and cities. Blood helps the person during his or her acute sickness and when the survival is at stake. Similarly land helps the sick state and helps poor, downtrodden and land less labourers to get job if adequate number of industries are set up in all villages and towns as per potential of the area.

UPA government did not do anything for ten years but just at the fag end of tenure passed a bill which appears to be growth oriented but in fact it is impractical for all practical purposes. The key reason is consent clause . Though applicability of consent clause and social impact analysis before acquisition of land appears to touch emotions of many farmers and politicians, but these two factors are real barrier in growth and quick acquisition of land. It is easy to preach these two conditions but it is completely unimaginable that there will be consensus on any case of land acquisition.

It is important to say here that even in Parliament , and state assemblies where most of participating members are knowledgeable, talented, intelligent but they never agree to any bill . None of bills placed  in the Parliament is ever passed with 70 to 80 percent of MPs or MLAs .Bills pertaining to rise in salary ,perquisite , pension and other benefits to all MPS and MLAs are only passed without any objection from any corner and passed with consent of 100 percent members. Otherwise, any government cannot dream of passing a bill in state assemblies or in Parliament without facing chaotic scene created by opposing parties.

During TV debates organised by promoters of TV channels, it is seen how persons of different political parties quarrel with each other and oppose any bill or any issue for the sake of opposition only. In our country most of party men follow what High command of the party dictates to follow. None of them applies their own mind or concerned with interest of common men and interest of the country.

Even media men speak what they are asked to speak by promoter of TV channel. Media men invent negative points and discover bad news to make it breaking news and to increase TRP without assessing the impact of such news on the society and on the nation. Media men focus on news related to rape, murder, accident, briber, scam, and all bad news to attract the mind of audience. They do not have time to project good work done by any officer or any government.

Similarly in a village where so many mukhiyas and muscle men or local self made guardians and protectors of village will crop up and fight with each other to establish their supremacy as happen in Indian Parliament . In an environment  where even members of same blood group families do not like group concept and willingly or unwillingly families face division after division ,it is absolutely impossible that 70 to 80 of villagers will ever agree to any case of land acquisition. Land in villages are divided among family members and share of land available to any one members in a family is shrinking year after year . Division of land has happened to such an extent that many farmers either have left farming or are engaged in labour work because farming has become economically unfeasible for small portion of land they own.

Dirty politics of rural area will not allow consensus to happen on majority opinion to happen in case of land acquisition. In rural areas also there are some farmers pro-BJP and some pro-Congress Party , some are pro-Lalu and some are Pro-Mulayam or pro-Mayawati. . People are divided even in a small family which causes breaking of family and quarrels with neighbours. It will be foolish to imagine of success of principle of consensus in such position when interest of each family mostly is in conflicting position to that of neighbouring facility. Similarly every family will have different mind-set towards social impact. Some of them will find a land acquisition as good for society and some will find is a loss venture.

As such application of consent clause will hamper growth to a great extent. However it is the moral duty of each government in each state and that of local authorities and social organisation to implement the amended Land bill and ensure minimum loss to farming and local farmers. Any law cannot yield sweet  fruits  until the law enforcing agencies are honest and pure in their mind . During last 68 years , almost all ruling parties and all government promised for elimination of poverty and promised maximum benefit to farmers , but unfortunately even Today condition of farmers and common men in general is not at all good and it has deteriorated year after year. And this is why some of farmers decide to end their life when they face huge loss in farming even after spending all their own money and borrowed money.

Need of the hour is improve the position of farmers and common men and this is possible by all round growth . This is possible only after farmers carry on farming and they get proper education facilities, medical facilities ,additional job opportunity also in their area only. This is possible only when all parties shed their personal ego and they jointly arrive at a consensus position which is less damaging and more fruitful and beneficial for large section of society. Suicide by farmers or by any one is not indicative of good health of the social comfort level and not indicative of good governance. As a matter of fact Parliament is not for the purpose of mutual mud slinging or for serving the ill-motivated and conflicting interest of various parties but for framing of rules, act and law after through debate and discussion.

Farmers will stop committing suicide only when the business of farming become a profitable venture . Big farmers exploit small farmers in villages and it is they who oppose land bill prominently. Small farmers and landless labourers are least bothered when land is acquired or not. They bother how to earn livelihood in their area and this will become easier for them only when other opportunities of jobs are crated in villages.

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