Rewind 2018: The land debate

Land is finite and always a contested issue. We bring you the key developments in the sector that is in the middle of infrastructure development and agriculture

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 28 December 2018
State of the commons
Credit: Getty Images Credit: Getty Images

Rewind 2018

Infrastructural projects—metro, highways and airports—from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu were opposed by farmers and tribals who feared loss of their agricultural land and livelihood. Tribals from Niyamgiri were in the news for their protests against Vedanta project which has plans to expand, while villagers from Balarampur in central Odisha’s Dhenkanal district forced the government to scrap a Rs 102 crore brewing project. Farmers from Himachal also sought ownership rights over chakauta, shamlat land. Here is some of the major developments:

Farmer protests

More than 50,000 farmers from over 60 villages in the Thane-Palghar district protested against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and the Mumbai-Vadodara expressway and the loss of over 1,000 acres of agricultural land and houses.  The Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project is likely to get derailed further. Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKS), the association of farmers protesting against land acquisition for the project, is now exploring legal options, including approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the courts of Japan.

Five members of the Kokna tribal community moved the Bombay High Court to oppose their rehabilitation from the Prajapur Pada in Aarey colony to SRA buildings. In the petition, the members have claimed that they are original inhabitants of the land and, hence, cannot be evicted for the Mumbai Metro III corridor.

Members of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam (All India Kisan Sabha), affiliated to the Communist Party of India (CPI), demanded that the government drop the Salem-Chennai green field corridor project, which is feared to affect the livelihood of a large number of farmers of the five districts through which it would pass. The Union government defended the land acquisition prior to environment clearance for the Chennai-Salem green field corridor project, stating that the law bars only the commencement of the project before obtaining the clearance and there is no prohibition on acquiring land

Jharkhand villagers ask why they should lose their land for Adani project supplying power to Bangladesh. Experts have also raised questions over the legality of the acquisition, given that Godda is part of the Santhal Parganas division, which is governed by the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, which does not permit the transfer, lease or sale of agricultural land, barring a few exceptions.

Stake of tribals and villagers

Some areas in Odisha are worst hit by a government-sponsored land grab to lure industries and investments, found an investigative report by Down To Earth.

The killing by police of 13 people protesting against a copper smelter run by Sterlite Industries in Tamil Nadu has given fresh impetus to the campaign against a refinery in Odisha run by the company's Indian unit, Vedanta Ltd. The company is seeking to expand the plant. The Odisha government scrapped a Rs 102 crore brewing project when resolute villagers braved the government and police to protect felling of trees in Jhinkargadi forest. Gujarat may witness a "violent confrontation" between the state administration and villagers over the issue of lignite mining by the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL) at Bhavnagar, warn farmer leaders. 

The long compensation wait

It has been 37 years since the land of farmers at Raipur Berisaal village, located on the border of Najibabad and Bijnor tehsils in Bijnor district, was acquired by the Uttar Pradesh govrernment for the construction of a 1 km road. These farmers have been waiting ever since for compensation. To ensure that no legal hurdles arise in acquiring lands for the proposed 19,333-acre Hyderabad Pharma City project, the Telangana government has been quick in getting a condition pertaining to land acquisition amended in environment clearance.  

Tweaking a rule on the compensation awarded on land acquisition to agricultural land owners in rural areas, the Gujarat government has excluded the land parcels falling under Urban Development Authorities (UDAs) and Area Development Authorities (ADAs) from the definition of urban region.

Land acquisition for highways is likely to gather steam with the state cabinet amending section 19 of the Maharashtra State Highways Land Acquisition Act 1894. The move will help farmers, who have surrendered their land for the road widening project.

Faced with massive tribal protests, Chhattisgarh government was forced to relent and the cabinet decided to initiate the process for withdrawal of its controversial amendment to Land Revenue Code which ensures that the state can buy land owned by the tribals with their consent.


State-led alternative mechanisms to acquire, plan and service land for urbanisation in India |July 2018| World Resources Institute

This paper describes and analyses six mechanisms that provide an end-to-end area development approach that enables land acquisition, its planning, and servicing, as well as methods to capture the land’s increased value to help pay for basic infrastructure and social amenities.

The legal regime and political economy of land rights of Scheduled Tribes in the Scheduled Areas of India|March 2018| Centre for Policy Research

This report revealed that while almost 89 per cent of all mineral wealth generated in India comes from schedule areas, this wealth is not channelled appropriately for the benefit of tribal peoples.

MIDCOURSE MANOEUVRES: Community strategies and remedies for natural resource conflicts in India| June 2018| Centre for Policy Research

This study is an attempt to understand the lived experience of people affected by land use change and related conflicts.

Lakes of Bengaluru: The Once Living, But Now Endangered Peri-Urban Commons| March 2018| Azim Premji University

Research examines the transformations to peri-urban commons such as lakes, ponds, wooded groves, cemeteries, grazing lands and other commons (rock, fallow land, water channels, submerged land near waterbodies) in the PUI of Bengaluru city. 


Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act: Decide on amendment, HC tells Punjab govt| Feb 2018| Punjab and Haryana High Court

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has granted a final opportunity to the Punjab government to decide on the proposed amendment in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961 and said the court would go ahead with the transfer of pending cases of gram panchayat land grabbing in Mohali and Rupnagar districts to the empanelled officers on March 20 if the government decides not to amend the Act

On 2013 Land Acquisition Act, Supreme Court's Notice To 5 States| Dec 9,2018| Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Dec 9, 2018  issued notices to five states—Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand seeking their responses on a plea challenging the validity of certain amendments made by them to a central law of 2013 on land acquisition.

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