My Views

Monday, February 23, 2015

Displacing or Partnering with Land Owners

My first job was with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. During training I went to Koraput where HAL has an engine factory. The beginning of this factory is a very  interesting story. When it was decided to locate the factory there, first step was to establish a Training Institute for workers.  This was around mid sixties, fifty years ago.

Law required that HAL would recruit workers locally. The adequately qualified workers were not available from Orissa state in those days. Aeronautics manufacturing is one of the most advanced technology.  It takes about 5 to 6 years to develop a worker. HAL chose to invest in the people of that area. As the factory started taking shape,  it was the centre of hope and a new future for several hundred families.  There was no opposition to the factory.  HAL became a partner in the development of local people.  They did not displace the people.

The controversy about Land Acquisition ordinance has to resolve two questions :

1. How much economic growth would take place?

2. Who would  benefit from that economic growth?

While the Project Plan takes care of the first question,  second question is neither asked nor answered except in general terms.

In land acquisition, issue is not just about the rate of compensation, the main challenge is to focus and really keep the land owners and other persons in the area in the centre of development. 

I would like to give another example. I learnt in my interactions with few project affected persons in Greater Noida by a large automobile factory a different aspect of the story. The land owners had got a good compensation for their land. While 1 in ten spent the money wisely in the development and education of their families,  rest used up the money for lavish living and unfortunately many got addicted to alcohol.  In the words of one of them,  majority was leading an "animal like " life. 

The right way is the toughest way. Project Affected Persons should not be displaced. They should be made to combine as a cooperative society owning the land. This Society would become partner with the industry by contributing their land on lease for 50 years. Individual members should be given an amount and shares in the industry. They become partners by becoming part owners in the venture.  It will be in their interest  that Factory becomes profitable.  Alongside a good support structure should be created for developing skills amongst these people so that they remain meaningfully occupied and employed not necessarily as an employee but as vendors to the Factory and others in the area.