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Land Alienation and Local Communities

Poorly designed compensation policies, inadequate planning, the entry of land sharks and the weak power of rural communities are resulting in a deterioration of the living conditions of those displaced by land alienation from the fringes of cities. Field surveys on the fringes of Hyderabad-Secunderabad, where a vast number of infrastructure projects, special economic zones and institutions are planned, show the adverse impact of involuntary displacement. A major correction of land acquisition and compensatory policies is called for, lest the simmering resentment expresses itself in open conflict.

Land Alienation and Local Communities

Case Studies in Hyderabad-Secunderabad

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Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 4, 20073235investment through SEZs is rather misplaced, especially in theIT sector. India has already attracted major multinationals andhas become the outsourcing hub of the world. As for the labourmarket, most of the companies (IT and BPOs) are facing theproblem of retaining rather than restrictions on hire and fire. Theperformance of SEZs in export promotion is not in any waysignificant, ie, between 2000-01 and 2004-05 exports from SEZsin India grew by 16.1 per cent as against 12.1 per cent in totalexports [CII op cit]. Moreover, two-thirds of SEZ’s earnings areused up for imports in all the six Asian countries, including India,leaving little trade surplus [Aiyar 2006]. As evident from theexperience of Andhra Pradesh, most of the SEZs are created foracquiring land for the purpose ofreal estate promotion. Someeven term SEZs as sepecial exploitative zones or special realestate zones [Bidwai 2006; Reddy 2006].Given its weak rationale and widespread misuse of the act callsfor a rethinking of the SEZ approach. The SEZs should be usedto develop infrastructure in the remote and backward areas byrestricting them to such areas. A part of the tax benefits providedto the entrepreneurs should be used for infrastructure develop-ment. Restricting their location to degraded lands and backwardareas would be more appropriate and help in developing theseareas without adversely affecting agricultural production. In theabsence of such restrictions, fertile lands will be up for grabsin the areas surrounding SEZs, which would be much higher thanthe actual land required for establishing the SEZ. Further, if SEZsare located in remote areas of backward districts, they will havea growth centre effect on the periphery.Displacement and CompensationDevelopment-linked land acquisition and displacement of peopleis not new in developing countries like China and India. Thereis growing awareness across the world that the experience ofdevelopment-related displacement has often pushed populationsinto marginal conditions. One of the main reasons for this isflawed compensation and rehabilitation policies [Cernea 2007].For instance, monetary compensation has replacedphysicalcompensation in most of the countries. There is needfor serious rethinking in this regard for two reasons: (i)thepaceof development-induced displacement has increased many foldduring the last decade,4 and (ii) more and more activities arebrought under the purview of development, ie, acquisition andallocation of land by government to profit-making private com-panies and SEZs are considered as a development activity. Whileit makes perfect sense to transform the agriculture-based economyinto a non-agricultural one, historically the transformation hadtaken place in a systematic manner in most of the present develo-ped countries. But this does not seem to be the case in India.Displacement in India is mostly forced, caused by push factorsrather than pull factors. That is the extent of labour absorption,especially the unskilled, outside agriculture is rather marginaldue to low growth of manufacturing sector. Since land is con-verted into high-productive and profit-making ventures, the ownersof land are entitled to a share for their land – an important factorof production.5Hence, displaced landowners are entitled to anappropriate share in the future profits from the new ventures takenup on their lands. Policies should take this into account whiledesigning compensation policies. A number of countries havedesigned policies in these lines, especially in the case of hydeland irrigation projects [Cernea op cit].IIImpact on Local CommunitiesOne needs to understand the process of land acquisition andalienation in order to realise the inappropriateness of policiestowards forced displacement caused by the development acti-vities. For, these policies appear to be benefiting the local com-munities with higher prices for their lands. It is true that in anumber of instances it is observed that poor farmers are becomingmillionaires overnight due to the increase in their land values.As long as these benefits directly go to the primary stakeholdersor the original farmers, it may be considered as a benefit to thecommunity. Even if the benefits are accruing to the primarystakeholders, will they sustain themselves in the absence ofreinvestments in productive assets like land, business, etc?Oftenlocal communities lack such skills, especially, when thedevelopments take place overnight. Communities are observedto be well-prepared in the urban periphery of Delhi, where urbanexpansion has resulted in the shift of local communities to urbanjobs (white- as well as blue-collar). For the development has takenplace over a period of time, which helped improving the aware-ness of rural communities in terms of investing in education anda smooth integration with urban culture [Bentinck 2000]. On theother hand, the recent (past two years) avalanche of developmentshas caught rural communities unaware in the peri-urban areas.Case studies of four villages, viz, Kondapur, Shameerpet,Maheswaram and Gopanapalle located in different ‘mandals’ ofRangareddy district surrounding Hyderabad city provide avividaccount of the impact of fast-paced development (Table1).The sample villages differ in terms of their size (area andpopulation) and distance from the twin cities (Table 1). Thesevillages are located in different directions. The process ofurbanisation and land alienation has started at different timepoints in these villages over the last 20 years. Kondapur was thefirst village to experience the externalities of urbanisation anddevelopment. Kondapur came into the limelight during the 1990swith the expansion of IT parks and is now a prime place withimportant commercial, industrial and educational institutions.Maheswaram is famous for the establishment of a World Bank-funded watershed during the 1980s. Though watershed deve-lopment could not transform the village, presently it is one ofthe hotspots for the real estate in the state due to its locationadvantage. In the case of Gopanapalle, an IT park and an SEZare expected soon. Shameerpet is an old village with an area of2,600 acres under tank irrigation. Shameerpet and Maheswaramhave the highest proportion of SC/ST population. Proportion oflandless households is marginal in all the sample villages. Landvalues and wage rates in these villages are linked to their locationand the vibrancy in the economic activities within and outsidethe villages. However, the wage differentials across the villagesare not much due to their vicinity to the city.Land Use and LivelihoodsAll the four villages are basically agrarian in nature. Cereals(including paddy) and vegetables are the main crops grown inthese villages though NSA has declined substantially in the recentyears (Table 2). Paddy is grown under tank and well irrigation.The NSA is less than 10 per cent of the geographical area inall the villages. Despite the availability of irrigation (Shameerpet)and the introduction of watershed programme (Maheswaram),
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 4, 20073236the extent of NSA is marginal in some villages. Most of thearableland is now recorded under cultivable waste and fallowlands. Though most of the land has been marked out forresidentialpurposes, transactions are carried out under thedisguiseof agriculture to avoid higher registration charges.6Asa result, area under non-agriculture uses remained small inmostofthe villages.Livelihoods of the households have undergone a transforma-tion during the last two decades. Earlier the main livelihoodactivities in these villages were predominantly agriculture.Cultivation decreased gradually with the onset of urbanisation(Table 1). In Kondapur, only 40 acres of land is being cultivatedpresently. Out of this 25 acres are with SCs, which was givenby government and they do not have proper pattas and hencecannot sell them. The remaining 15 acres are owned by the well-to-do in the village and waiting to sell at premium prices. About500 acres are being cultivated in Maheswaram. Livestock farmingcontinues to be one of the main livelihood activities in Shameerpetand Maheswaram, while livestock is more or less disappearingin the other villages (Table1). Hardly a few families keep oneor two buffaloes for their livelihood in Kondapur. Dairy thoughimportant is declining in Gopanapalle. Maheswaram andShameerpet have substantial number of livestock, includingpoultry. A number of families supply milk to the city. Urbanisationhas brought in diversity in livelihood activities away fromagriculture. A majority have shifted to lower end non-farmactivities like construction labour, petty business, etc (Table 3).Some have become real estate brokers and contractors. Only inKondapur a few could manage to get into higher-end jobs, whichcould be due to the fact that urbanisation process was initiatedmuch earlier here.Land ValuesLand values have gone up manifold in all the villages, thougheach village has a different time frame due to its location andthe initiation of developmental works. And the recent years haveseen the sharpest rise in land prices in all the villages (Table4).Kondapur experienced an early boom in land values due to itsvicinity to the Hi-Tech City, and later, it became a part ofCyberabad, where most of the software outfits are located.Landprices have gone up three to four times in Kondapurduringthelast year. The price rise is mainly due to softwareemployee’s preference to stay nearer to their workplace (Hi-TechCity) so that they can get back home quickly even at midnight.Despite this, Kondapur lacks basic amenities like householdwater connections, underground sewerage, health facilities, etc.One has to fetch water from the only community tap. Demandcoupled with the affluence of the few has pushed the cost ofliving upwards.In Maheswaram, the real estate boom was seen mostly in lasttwo years, which is mainly due to its vicinity to the proposedinternational airport and Fab city. The activity of plotting thelands for the residential purposes has increased in a big way fromthe year 2005. Now the rate per sq yard is Rs 9,000-10,000 inwell-developed ventures with all facilities and on the main roads.In the interior ventures, it is Rs 5,000-6,000 per sq yard. Wewere informed that a few people (both local and others) madeenormous amounts of money in the last one year by acting asmiddle men, paying the advance for the agreement and beforeit is registered in their names they are selling it to somebodyat a phenomenal profit. There are nearly 150 people who areacting as middlemen/brokers/realtors in the village itself. Anincident narrated by the villagers tells us how the real estatebusiness is flourishing in the village. In 2005 an outside personhad purchased five acres of land from a villager for Rs 4 lakh/acre. He had sold it in 2006 (September) to a realtor for Rs 1.1crore/acre. The realtor, in turn, is selling the same by plottingit for Rs 9,000/yard – 16plots of 200 sq yds/acre and sellingit at Rs 3 crore per acre.Table 1: Basic Characteristics of the Study VillagesDetails/VillageKondapurShameerpetMahe-Gopan-swaramapalleDistance fromcity (kms)21 2728 20MandalSeriShameer-Maheswa-Lingam-Lingampalli*petrampalliNo of households 147212803500615Total population59857769250003145(a)SC3201428520–(b)ST 60645346–No of landlessHouseholds (HH) 5–102Major existingHi-tech city,Biotech park, BITS,InternationalCentralinstitutions/National AcademyNALSAR Collegeairport,University,coming upof Construction,of Law, ApparelFABproposedIIIT, NIFT,Park and ICICIcity, etcIT Park etcIndian School ofKnowledgeBusiness, etc.park, etcLand value/acre (primelocation)Rs 15 croreRs 1.3 croreRs1.3 croreRs1.36croreYear of activeland transactionsstarted 1985199520052001Wage rates(a) Agriculture labour(1)WomenRs 120-130/dayRs 35-50Rs 50-60Rs 70(2)MenRs 150/dayRs 80Rs 80Rs 100(b)Skilled workersRs 250/dayRs 130-150Rs 150-180Rs 200(c)Wage labour(1)WomenRs 120-130/day70Rs 100Rs 80(2)MenRs 150/day100Rs 120100(d)HousemaidsRs 700-800/Rs 330-400/Rs 300-400/–monthmonthmonthNote:* Seri Lingampalli is now a municipality.Source:Field Survey.Table 2: Land Use Pattern(Acres)Details/VillageKondapurShameerpetMaheswaramGopanapalleGeographical area1942577050012475Forests ––300–Barren anduncultivated lands–1900160040Non-agricultureland use1083364500412Pastures and grazingland–200.11196–Miscellaneoustree crops–2.00––Cultivable waste86322492000126.39Fallow lands 27572200773.30Net area sown40529500112Crops grownJowar,Paddy,Paddy,Paddyvegetables,vegetables,vegetables,paddy, etcjowar,maize,chickpea, floriculture,etcetcTotal livestock (nos)3022306172270Source:Field Survey.
Economic and Political WeeklyAugust 4, 20073237In Shameerpet, land prices have started moving faster after1995, while major jumps were experienced only after 2000 dueto various activities in the private sector. During the last six yearsland prices have increased five to six times on the main roads(Table 4). People feel that compared to other parts, the increasehas been gradual and stable. In 2006, housing plots were soldat Rs 4,000-5,000 per sq yard on the main road and Rs 2,000-3,000 in the interiors of the village. On the other hand, Gopanapallehad experienced a steep rise in land prices only after 2002following the announcement of establishing a software park(Table 4). The announcement of establishment of an SEZ in thevicinity in 2006 further pushed the land prices up.Land AlienationMost of the villagers sold their major portion of land whenthe prices started to rise. In all the villages land prices had crossedRs 1 crore per acre by the end of 2006. More than 90 per centof the farmers sold their lands at below Rs 10 lakh per acre inall the villages (Table 5). Except in Shameerpet, which hadexperienced a gradual increase in land values, very little landremains in the hands of farmers. Further, the leftover land ismostly assigned land7 that cannot be sold, especially in Kondapur.Except in Shameerpet and Maheswaram, no small and mediumfarmer had sold his land at high prices (Rs 1 crore and above).Same is the case with SC and ST farmers, who cultivate mostlythe assigned lands.The revenue system, which maintains the land records is notfarmer-friendly, especially for the poor. If there is any genuineproblem with the land records, it would be a nightmare, as themandal revenue office (MRO) unnecessarily gives the concernedfarmer memos. Earlier big farmers transferred lands to the otherfarmers with a fear of losing the land due to the land ceilingact. These land transfers were called 38E lands, where thelandlord will hold a right of 40 per cent and the cultivator 60per cent. The cultivator will obtain 60 per cent rights only aftercontinuous cultivation for 16 years. But generally the villagesecretaries under the influence of village elite and politicians donot write this record properly.8In all the villages, people, especially the vulnerable, criticisethe role of village assistants. People complain that they havemanipulated the land records in favour of the elite and those whocould manipulate the records. As a result, poor farmers are payinga heavy price. For, all those lands with complicated titles couldnot be sold easily. People also allege that lands which they havebeen cultivating since three generations have been entered asassigned lands in the basic documents. In fact, nine lakh acresout of the total 55 lakh acres of assigned lands are stated to bein the possession of ineligible persons. The state governor hadpromulgated an ordinance on November 5, 2006 to amend theAP Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act 1977,providingfor the resumption of illegally-occupied assignedlandsand restoring them to the original allotter or their heirs.A separate law is also proposed for specifying a deadline forsurrender of such lands and setting up the required enforcementmechanism for prosecution. Apart from the assigned and surpluslands, large extents of ‘Bhoodan’, ‘Inam’, endowments andevacuee lands are in illegal possession of influential personsunder ‘benami’ names. There is need for a comprehensivesurveyofall typesof lands under the illegal occupation andannounce a schemefor resumption or regularisation of such landsin a time-bound manner.Beneficiaries of DevelopmentWhile more than 90 per cent of the farmers (primary stake-holders) sold their lands at very low prices, some, especially thepoor, lost their meagre lands in the name of development (Box1).The realtors buy the land in the disguise of agriculture purpose,which means low registration charges. After converting the landto plots they transfer them to individuals who would bear theheavyregistration charges. According to a reliable source, nearly20-30 acres of government land were also plotted in variousplaces in Kondapur by realtors. In spite of many agitations withthe support of local politicians, not much could be done as therewas a strong nexus between revenue officials, politicians andrealtors. The people who were fighting for the cause had to giveup after some time. Realtors have bribed and lured some peopleTable 3: Changes in LivelihoodsVillage 1985 2006KondapurFarming, vegetable cultivation,Construction contractors,dairy, provisional stores,realtors, business, pettyagriculture labour, potters,business, labour, softwaretraditional services.employees, real estatebrokers, autodrivers, etc.ShameerpetFarming, dairy, agriculturalFarming, agriculturallabour, petty business, tradi-labour, dairying, pettytional services, etc.business, masonry works, etc,MaheswaramFarming, dairy, traditionalAgriculture labour, wageservices, wage labour, etc.labour, dairy, petty business,real estate business, realestate brokering, etc.GopanapalleFarming, dairying, agriculturePetty business, dairy,labour, stone-cutting, traditionalmasonry, services, farming services, etc. (only three people), etc.Source:Field Survey.Table 4: Change in Land Values(Rs per acre)YearKondapurShameerpetMaheswaramGopanapalle198550,000Up to this period5000-10,00040,000-50,0001995250,000-350,000200010,000,00-100,000-200,00025,000-15,00016,000,00on main roads,50,000 80,000-100,000for paddy fields200133,000,0020,000,00 20,000on main roads.For the paddy fields:1,50,000-2,50,000200260,000,00-30-35 lakhs on mainRs 25,00080,000,00roads. For thepaddy fields it was still1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh2003100,000,0030,000,00-15,000,00-35,000,0030,000,002004130,000,00 60,000,00-50,000-Rs12-15 lakh70,000,00100,0002005160,000,00-70,000,00-Second-half of20,000,00-230,000,0080,000,002005: 50,000,0024,000,002006600,000,00-1,10,000,00-100,000,00-50,000,00-1500,000,00 1,30,000,00 130,000,00.136,000,00Note:As Kondapur has been transformed into residential area, hardly fewacres (10-15) of agricultural land are left.Source:Field Survey.

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