With more than Rs 400 crore of the BMC's money stuck in the state government's arduous process of land acquisition, activists are stressing on the need for civic bodies to step up and demand more power from the state to acquire land for public projects.
Plots stuck in acquisition
According to Vinod Ghosalkar, the Shiv Sena MLA from Dahisar constituency, as many as 18 plots including those reserved for DP Road, gardens and play grounds are stuck in the acquisition process in Dahisar and Borivli. "For one of the plots reserved for a playground, the BMC has already paid Rs 5.5 crore to the collector on January 12, 2010, but has still not acquired it yet," Ghosalkar said.
"I have held several meetings with land acquisition and BMC officials, but to no avail. Currently, the powers to acquire land lies with the Centre and the state, but ideally, municipal corporations should also be given some powers to acquire the land. Many important projects of the BMC have been pending, since it hasn't been given the power to acquire land," said Ghosalkar.
Waiting for years for a playground
"If BMC is serious about its public projects, it needs to shorten the acquisition process and emphasise on the state government to amend the Land Acquisition Act and vest the acquisition powers directly in the BMC's Development Plan (DP) department. Residents of IC colony have been waiting for a play ground promised to them, and we hope to get it for them soon," said Albino Monteiro, an activist from Borivli.
New Act not so popular
Within months of coming into existence, the new Land Acquisition Act started drawing flak from several states for its stringent provisions, who demanded diluting certain restrictive clauses so that major industrial projects do not get stuck in the countless number of approvals and detailed paperwork involved. Some states had also demanded autonomy on certain provisions of the Act.
Several industrial groups had objected to the Act, complaining that mega infrastructure projects getting delayed because of its complex provisions will escalate costs. The land bill prescribes that compensation will be twice the market value in urban areas and four times in rural areas.
With frequent meetings and discussions on the Act at the Centre, it was being widely speculated that Union Surface Transport, Shipping and Rural Development minister Nitin Gadkari would take a decision to 'dilute' the Act in the monsoon session, till he cleared last month that the central government has no plans to change the Act, but will take a decision only if all parties demand it.
Why did the new Act come into force?
The Land Acquisition Act, 1894, is said to have caused widespread displacement of thousands of farmers and other land owners on the pretext of development, without providing fair compensation or rehabilitation to them. The new law upholds their interests.
1. Autonomy for state governments
2. Social impact assessment only for large projects
3. Retrospective clause for compensation should be modified
4. Penalty provisions against civil servants are too stringent
5. Return of unutilised land to original owners to be deleted