The Gujarat Government's new land acquisition policy goes on to show that Chief Minister Narendra Modi, while balancing industry requirements, has been mindful of the grievances of landowners and their right to property. The policy is laudable because it takes into consideration two major issues regarding land acquisition: First, correct determination of the price of the land, a factor that often becomes the bone of contention because farmers feel short-changed. And, second, the post-sale source of income of farmers who sell their entire land holding that has been their only source of livelihood. Now that land acquisition for industrial purposes in Gujarat will be based on market prices determined by a third agency — the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University — and landowners will be given 10 per cent of the differential amount between allotment price and land purchase price, the farmers are expected to get a better deal, leaving little room for discontent. However, most judicious is the decision to give landowners a developed commercial plot equivalent to one per cent of the land acquired — they can either use it or sell it at commercial rates — and to bear the cost of training a member of each of the families of affected farmers for two years at any ITI. Such steps would address the issue of post-sale sources of income for farmers who sell their entire land holding.
Land acquisition in India for infrastructure and industrial development has been the core issue in the development debate and has resulted in serious agitations like the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Nandigram movement. And Gujarat has its share of controversies, too, despite witnessing a steady flow of investments due to establishment of industrial estates with all the required infrastructural facilities in several parts of the State by the GIDC. While farmers have been up in arms against GIDC for acquiring fertile agricultural lands, the State Government has been ticked off heavily by the Gujarat High Court for not paying the market price to landowners. There is no denying that monetary compensation is not enough for people when their roots, shelter and the source of livelihood are taken away along with their land. In that respect, the Gujarat Government's new participatory policy shows a way of rehabilitating the third or fourth generation farmers by helping them develop new skills to find employment and giving them the opportunity to reap benefits of future development on their land. Other State Governments would do well to take a leaf out of Gujarat's book as development does not mean bringing in the IT and manufacturing sectors and building highways, railway lines and real estates to the detriment of agricultural land, but maintaining a balance between factory and farming.