Farmers demand equity in compensation rate for land acquired for Mega Industrial Park at Bihta in Bihar  

The Bihar government’s mission to promote industry has run into troubled waters in the State capital itself. The Mega Industrial Park, slated to come up at Bihta in Patna district, has been the seat of peasant protests for the past few days. Recently, nearly 1,000 farmers and land owners went on a day’s fast to demand equity in land compensation and clarity in rates. A section of them have been on an indefinite fast with some even being hospitalised.

One project, one rate

The farmers are demanding implementation of the ‘one project, one rate’ provision of the Bihar government. According to the Bihar Land Acquisition Resettlement and Rehabilitation (Amended) Policy 2007, when a notification is received for acquiring land from several villages for the purpose of any one project, then the policy of ‘one project, one rate’ is applicable to the land acquisition process.

“The policy is clear that if you are taking land for one project, then you have to give the same rate. But in the case of this project, differential rates have been given to the farmers. You have instances where four brothers have got payments at four different rates for their land,” Trimbaj Raj, a farmer who gave up 27 acres for the Park, told The Hindu.

“The rate for lands that were notified in 2007 and acquired in 2011 was Rs. 15,000 per decimal (435 square feet) of farm land. In 2011, this rate was Rs. 40,000, in 2012 it was Rs. 53,000 and in 2013 it is Rs. 2.47 lakh per decimal,” he pointed out.

The Mega Industrial Park covers an area of 1,500 acres sprawled over six villages – Rampur Dilawarpur, Ramnagar or Raghavpur, Amhara, Bihta, Dayalpur Daulatpur and Nirmal Dumri. Lands from around 2,500 farmers are being acquired for this key project of the Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) – a Government of Bihar undertaking.

Lack of clarity

“The rule says that compensation rate is fixed at the time of acquisition and not at the time of notification. Till today, there is no clarity on land value and its rates. Moreover, in 2007, the rates were fixed based on the estimation of 1990, because till then the land acquisition policy was not clear. In 2011, the land acquisition officer took from us in writing that we are giving our land. So we should get the 2011 rate. All we are asking from the government is that they follow their own policy and give the same rate, since all the 1,500 acres are for one project,” Mr. Raj said. He himself received two different payments for his land.

The government countered the claims of the farmers saying compensation rates differed because land was acquired in different years.

Legal option

“The notifications were issued in different years. The acquisition was not completed in one year. An amendment was added to the 2007 policy that the notification for acquisition must be in the same year if one rate has to apply. The farmers are asking for enhanced rate of 2011. For that they will have to go to court,” Dhananjay Kumar, land acquisition officer, told The Hindu.

Officials said the farmers misinterpreted the government policy. But, the farmers’ body is unrelenting. “If they have issued notifications in different years, it’s their problem. It goes against the rule that the acquisition process has to be completed in one year,” Mr. Raj said.

There is a lack of clarity on why the government opted for phased acquisition. Concerned departments and authorities, namely Revenue and Industries departments and BIADA, have been passing the buck on the issue.

“According to our records, the acquisition was done in two phases and rates are decided at the time of acquisition. In two financial years, BIADA gave around four to five requisitions for land,” said Hukum Singh Meena, Secretary, Revenue and Land Reforms Department.

Asked why multiple requisitions were issued, Deepak Kumar Singh, managing director of BIADA, said, “I cannot say off-hand. The matter is seven years old. We are not involved in the acquisition process, we just allot land. The farmers have the provision to go to the civil court.”

The Industries Minister could not be reached for comment.

IIT project hit

Meanwhile, the farmers’ stir has hit the project, affecting chiefly the work on building an IIT Patna campus in Bihta. The land carved out for the establishment of IIT is 500 acres. With work on the institute being stalled, authorities have had to postpone its opening for the coming academic year. The institute has written to the State government to expedite work.

The impasse has put the government in a bind. The farmers, meanwhile, have threatened legal action if their demands are not met.