CAG indicts government for violating Land Acquisition Act

Bhubaneswar: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report has severely indicted the state government for abusing the Land Acquisition Act to provide land to several companies citing emergency provisions in the act. The CAG report pointed out that the emergency provisions in the act were cited by the government to provide land to six companies like the Posco, Dhamara Port and Vedanta Alumina.

Under Clause 17-4 of the Land Acquisition Act, the government can acquire land citing the emergency provisions. The displaced persons and families cannot raise protests in case of land acquired under the provisions. Even the Supreme Court in the past has directed all state governments and the Centre for `application of mind` while acquiring land under the clause.

However, the CAG report said that the Odisha government has acquired about 4,967 acres of land for 85 number of industrial establishments by application of the emergency provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. The market price of these land acquired between 2001 to 2011 which was Rs 165 crore would be over Rs 901 crore now, the report said. The report said that Posco-India availed land measuring 437 acres for just Rs Rs 11.85 crore whose present price would be Rs 64 crore. Likewise, the Vedanta company acquired land measuring 826 acres for just Rs 8 crore whose market price would be Rs 57 crore now. Dhamara Port was another beneficiary. It took over land measuring 1,070 acres for only Rs 32 crore. The land price must have escalated to Rs Rs 138 crore. The report said that Aditya Aluminium received land measuring 2,021 acres for its Sambalpur plant for only Rs 95 crore. The market price of the land at present would not be less than Rs 335 crore.

The government provided 608 acres of land to Bhushan Power and Steel for its Sambalpur plant at a cost of Rs 16 crore. The recent price of the said piece of land would be worth Rs 304 crore. The Viraj Steel and Energy got land measuring 2.5 acre worth over Rs 35 lakh for just Rs 10 lakhs. The report also pointed out that farmers lost land worth about Rs 224 crore to 11 industrial establishments.

The CAG has suggested that then state government should formulate a strong policy with emphasis on land utilisation to avoid such problems. The CAG also suggested that steps must be taken by the state government to collect actual prices of land from the companies to provide it to the farmers who have lost land. The CAG also has advised the government to get back unutilised land from the companies and take steps to redistribute among the original land owners.