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SC castigates Govt on raw deal to land owners

The Supreme Court on Thursday came down heavily on the government for failing to rehabilitate land owners in the country whose land have been acquired for construction of various dams and industrialisation.



New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday came
down heavily on the government for failing to rehabilitate
land owners in the country whose land have been acquired for
construction of various dams and industrialisation.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly
said the government which "granted exemption to the tune of Rs
1.25 lakh crore for Special Economic Zones" was fighting shy
of providing employment to the landowners whose only source of
livelihood had been taken away by acquisition proceedings.
"Unfortunately, the Land Acqusition Act is being abused
in the country. It was first enacted by the British in 1884.
The white men have left but their legacy continues. The
colonial mindset is continuing.

"Most of them (land owners) are illiterate. They only
know how to use the plough. Maharashtra and Andhra are famous
for farmers suicides. They are fleeced by money lenders,
middlemen and other outsiders," the bench said.

The apex court made the remarks while asking Maharashtra
government to explain the number of land owners or their
family members provided employment in return for the land
acquired for Gosikhurda dam in the state`s Vidharbha region.

Counsel for some of the land owners Somanath Padhan
submitted before the bench that the victims were without any
source of livelihood after about 35.43 hectares of their land
was acquired as early as in October, 1999.

It was pointed out that at the time of acquiring the
land the state had come out with a circular to provide
government jobs in Group C and D posts to at least one member
of the project affected persons /land owners.

Subsequently, on July 13,2001, the Nagpur bench of the
Bombay High Court directed the state to provide employment
within three months to certain land owners who had moved the
court.
The state filed a review petition claiming employment
would be provided only after they fulfilled the rules which
stipulated that prospective candidates have to obtain a
certificate of displacement from the District Rehabilitation
Officer.

The petition was dismissed on April 29, 2002, following
which the state appealed in the apex court.

Taking exception to the manner in which the government
sought to fight the legal battle, the bench said the case has
been pending in the Supreme Court for the past eight years.

"How do you expect people to come to the Supreme Court
from places like Kerala, Karimnagar, Mahabubabad, Nagaland and
the eastern states. In the name of land acquisition for dams
and industrialization you are taking away their land.
Depriving them of their livelihood. You are destroying
generations of several families by your action. Because these
people are illiterate.

"Earlier, they were masters of their lands now see
their condition. If the government can grant exemption to the
tune of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for special economic zones(SEZs)
what is your problem in providing these victims with jobs that
may give them a few thousand rupees," the bench queried.

It later directed the state to furnish details on the
number of persons displaced, those provided with employment
and other rehabilitation measures.

PTI

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