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DC debate: Is Andhra Pradesh deceiving people with land pooling scheme?

Published Mar 8, 2015, 1:22 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 4:21 pm IST
AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu at an event for land pooling for the Andhra Pradesh capital (Photo: DC/File)
 AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu at an event for land pooling for the Andhra Pradesh capital (Photo: DC/File)

State deceiving people, project can’t take off

The visit of YSRC chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and actor-politician Pawan Kalyan to the AP capital city site was rather late in the day. Informal “land-pooling” had started in November 2014, though the formal process commenced later with the enactment of the AP Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014, and the CRDA Rule.

During this process, the AP government let loose a reign of terror over the villagers/landowners of the capital city areas. The combined might of realtors-turned-ministers, senior revenue officials, police registering cases and an army of real estate ‘dalals’ carrying hard cash was brought to bear on the hapless peasants.

These young politicians should have gone earlier and stood by the people.  Be that as it may, to say that land pooling is over is a blatant lie being peddled by the government. The truth is far from it.

Landowners have given only consent under Rule 5. This is not a legal document. After this, under Rule 8.8, subject to the landowner’s ownership right being established, the competent authority shall enter into an agreement with the consent-giver in Form 9.14, to firm up the Development Agreement and Irrevocable Power of Attorney to alter the boundaries, develop and make requisite changes in the land pool area.

Once the landowner signs this legal document, CRDA can take possession of land with standing crops and is indemnified of all encumbrances and can ‘develop’ and sell plots and can raise loan by mortgaging the land.

The CRDA can cancel DA/PoA at any time without giving any reason. In return, all that the farmer gets is a Land Pooling Ownership Certificate with vague verbal assurances. While CRDA gets a legal document and possession of the land, all that the landlord gets is a piece of paper with no monetary value. In the event, having been deprived of his only source of livelihood he would be on the streets. This is highly arbitrary and unjust and cannot stand the scrutiny of law. And, therefore, consent-givers can refuse to sign the DA/PoA.

As it is, the capital city project cannot take-off. None of the basic requirements — concept plan, feasibility study, Social Impact Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment, environmental clearance and master plan — have been complied with so far. The government is deceiving people saying this not applicable for ‘pooled-land’ project.

The Centre had appointed a high-level committee with urban experts to select the site for the AP capital. Terms of Reference included least possible dislocation to existing agriculture systems, preservation of local ecology, promoting environmentally sustainable growth, minimising construction  cost etc. Going by the ToR, the committee did not recommend this site. In the event, Centre will not be able to fund the project. The Andhra Pradesh government is also broke. How will the Rs 3 lakh capital be built?

The AP government is broke and has no funds. How then will the Rs 3 lakh crore capital project be built? It may not happen and the government would have only ended up destroying the most fertile farmland in the country.

M. G. Devasahayam, Retd. IAS Former administrator Chandigarh Capital formation

Land pooling invented to circumvent law

If the Andhra Pradesh government is under the impression that it has successfully completed the so-called voluntary land pooling for the capital city, it is sadly mistaken.

A large number of legal issues still remain unanswered besides the issues of additional compensation as well as relief and rehabilitation of a number of people currently eking out their livelihoods from those lands.

It is unfortunate that the AP government has chosen to acquire, in the guise of land pooling, more than 30,000 acres of highly fertile multi-crop irrigated lands compromising national food security. This is despite Section 94(4) of the AP Reorganisation Act providing that the Union government shall de-notify any extent of degraded forests for the capital city.

Large portions of such lands are readily available in Guntur and adjoining districts and the state government would have got these lands free of cost. Besides, Section 94(3) provides that it shall be the responsibility of the Union government to fund the cost of all important buildings in the capital city. Such provisions were never there in any of the earlier states’ Reorganisation Acts.

It should be borne in mind that on the day the CRDA Bill was passed by the AP Legislature, the prohibition on acquisition of multi-crop irrigated lands was still there in Section 10 of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, even for genuine public causes. It is only to circumvent this law of Parliament, the AP government invented the land pooling scheme.

If you are prohibited from acquiring irrigated lands because of concerns of food security, you cannot even acquire them through land pooling.

Normally, the CRDA Act could have been challenged as “beyond legislative competence” based on the following observation of the apex court in many similar cases.

If a legislature is prohibited from doing something, it may not do so even under the “guise or pretence” of doing something that appears to be within its lawful jurisdiction.

A legislature may, prima facie, purport to act within the limits of its powers, yet it may in substance and reality be transgressing those powers, their purported exercise being merely a “guise or pretence.”

This rule may broadly be explained as the observance of good faith in the exercise of legislative powers, and it is implied in the operation of the maxim: “That which cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly.”

What came in handy for the AP government, though temporarily, is the Ordinance on Land Acquisition. But, given the opposition from almost all political parties, including the RSS, the government is likely to retain the prohibition on acquisition of multi-crop irrigated lands, in which case the CRDA Act itself will be challenged.

Why is the state bent on destroying irrigated land which constitute just about 10 to 12  per cent of the country’s geographical area.

All of us want a state-of-the-art and modern capital city. Large areas of degraded forest lands are available in Guntur and adjoining districts free of cost. Why is the state government hell bent on destroying canal-based irrigated lands, which constitute hardly 10 to 12 per cent of the total geographic area of the country?

D. A. Somayajulu, Member Political Affairs Committee YSR Congress

Location: Andhra Pradesh


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