Noida: At the heart of the snowballing controversy over land acquisition in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh lies the gross misuse of legal provisions to favour real estate developers, say protesting farmers even as officials pass the buck.
Farmers demanding higher compensation allege that in villages falling under Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authority areas, the Mayawati government used the Land Acquisition Act`s provisions to suspend their right to object. The 156-km Yamuna Expressway is to link New Delhi with Agra and reduce travel time by an hour.
"Under the Act, the state can exercise its power to acquire land for public cause," said farmer leader Satya Pal Chaudhary.
"The state has to initiate this through Section 4 under which the details have to be notified in the media. Then, under Section 5, objections are invited from the aggrieved parties and heard judiciously.
"And after the smooth acquisition of land, Section 9 of the Act is enforced. That means the state has the right to take physical possession. Compensation, whatever is decided, is deposited with the state treasury if a farmer does not come forward to take the compensation amount.
"The unfortunate part of this Act is the state possesses the right to revoke the provisions of Section 5 (to file objections) under extraordinary emergency situations. The provisions of Section 5 are suspended and Section 17 has been enforced in the entire district. This means, farmers have no right to file objections.
"The government is misusing the Land Acquisition Act through such provisions and on record such an extraordinary emergency situation has continued for a long time in this area," said the farmer leader.
Officials say large scale land acquisition had been carried out under Section 17 and they had gone by the book.
Surendra Ram, additional district magistrate (Land Acquisition) Yamuna Expressway Authority, said: "When Section 17 of the Act is enforced, then Section 5 is automatically suspended.
"Section 17 was already in force in the entire district of Gautam Budh Nagar when I joined as ADM in the Yamuna Expressway Authority," he said.
Asked about the urgency to implement Section 17, he passed the buck saying the Expressway Authority would have to be asked about that.
Harnam Singh, the ADM for Gautam Budh Nagar district, under which Greater Noida falls, said the same thing had been done for other projects.
"All acquisition was executed by revoking Section 5 and enforcing Section 17 in Gautam Budh Nagar district, including for the cement companies of Birla and Ambuja near NTPC in Dadri."
But SP Chaudhary, a leading law expert of revenue related cases, said: "Section 17 is enforced under the most extraordinary emergencies to acquire land when a project of public interest comes up. Hence the revocation of Section 5 and enforcement of Section 17 in the entire Gautam Budh Nagar was strange."
The farmer agitation has already claimed four lives, including of two policemen. and political parties have jumped on to the bandwagon.
The farmers say areas near the expressway will be sold to real estate developers who will make multi-storey buildings for sale at huge prices.
"In Bhatta-Parsaul, the government has used extraordinary emergency powers and acquired land at the rate of Rs 845 per sq m. The developers then sold the land at the high premium rate of Rs 10,500 per sq m. The end user is getting the floor at Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,200 per sq foot," said farmer Kirpal Singh Malik.
"After calculating the cost of high rise buildings, the sale price is calculated at Rs 2 lakh per sq m. On the one hand, the farmer is given at Rs 845 per square m while the end user is getting the floor at Rs 2 lakh per sq m.
"The middleman who does not own land is getting benefit approximately at Rs 1 lakh at least, without having any ownership right on land."
Farmer Raj Pal Malik said: "This discriminating policy of the government has caused anger among cultivators."
The authority, after acquiring the land, allots it to developers on installment basis that varies from 10 to 29 years. The developers, after getting the allotment letter, sell the entire project at high prices.
Woman farmer leader Rajviri Devi said: "The entire policy is pro-realtor and anti-farmer. It is needs be to reversed it urgently.
"There is no regulatory authority to put a check on such trends in real estate. The man who was cycling 10 years ago is flying in his own helicopter. The farmers are against such discriminatory policies," said local farmer Rajendra Singh Malik.