Muddled thinking

Muddled thinking

The acquisition of land for industrial projects has of late gained a certain notoriety and become the stuff of headlines. There is urgent need for clarity on the subject and for updating the antiquated Land Acquisition Act of 1894.

There is no sight of such clarity or a new law. Instead, the parliamentary panel on rural development has recommended that land for such purposes be acquired completely either by the government or by the private party involved. Currently, entrepreneurs have to acquire 70% of the land, and the government, the rest.

The problem is unlikely to be resolved in this way. If, for example, the government decides to acquire 100% of the land, it will get too much discretionary authority—the original source of trouble. If private players are forced to acquire land, project costs may turn prohibitive.

The suggested solution reeks of muddled thinking. The issue is not who acquires the land and in what proportion. The issue is about resolving the conflict between the need for industrialization and preserving farmers’ property rights.