LUCKNOW: Land owners in Uttar Pradesh will now be entitled to own at least 25% of their total land acquired after the completion of the development project for which the acquisition had taken place. The provision is part of the new State Urban Housing & Habitat Policy (SUHHP) 2014, the draft of which was cleared in principle by the state cabinet on Wednesday.
Talking to the media after the cabinet meeting concluded, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav expressed hope that the new policy would do away with existing provisions which led to exploitation of petty farmers owning small patches of land. Interestingly, the SUHHP 2014 is broadly based on the policy that presently exists in Gujarat and has been hailed by one and all, including the developers and the farmers whose land has been acquired under the framework.
The cabinet also authorised the chief minister to clear the draft after required amendments. Once finalized, the SUHHP 2014 will replace the existing housing policy in UP that was formulated almost 20 years ago. Despite rampant urbanization over the last two decades, the land acquisition was made as per the provisions of the policy that came into being in 1995. Land acquisition by state and central government had led to major law and order crises in the state in the last few years. The new policy also minimizes the intervention of the state agencies in land acquisition process as it provides ample scope for the developer and the land owner to negotiate directly.
At present, the development authorities pay the farmers once the district magistrate has awarded the compensation. Still, there is discontent among the farmers and, many a time, the acquisition process gets entangled in legal battle, the prime example being the 1,500-acre Prabandh Nagar scheme in Lucknow which has failed to take off since 2007. The farmers had refused to part with their land even after the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) agreed to pay an amount twice the circle rate.
The SUHHP 2014 will help to eliminate exploitation of the farmers, particularly those who owned a small patch of land. Most of these small land owners were till now compelled to accept the compensation offered by the agency with acquires the land irrespective of the escalation in value once the area was developed. The new SUHHP was in line with the framework provided in the National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy that was cleared by the union government in 2007.
The new draft provides for a system which reduces the burden of paying compensation to the land owners as it offers ownership in the developed project directly. The policy is sure to benefit the land owners particularly in situations where the land is acquired but the development process takes years after the compensation against land acquisition is paid.
As per the housing department officials, under the scheme, a compact area will be selected in consultation with land owners for urban development. The authority concerned will provide infrastructure through funds obtained by commercially selling a part of land. The remaining land, whose value would have increased with the provision of infrastructure, will be reallocated to the participating land owners. Land owners, however, cannot claim their own piece of land. The biggest advantage of this arrangement is that it avoids public discontent and protests, and, above all, no money is required for acquiring land since there is no provision for payment of compensation.
In case the land owner's piece of land is reserved for public utility like a road, a park and the like, then the land owner would be entitled to transfer of development rights. Under the new policy, Housing schemes will have to compulsorily reserve 20% of the housing units for the poor and financially weaker sections of the society. The parameters to define the status of the two categories were however yet to be finalized. In case the acquired land is used for Higher Use category, then the government would provide legal help to land owners to claim "Urban Use" fee from the developer.
The new policy also provides for compulsory accommodation of public utilities in housing schemes which will include public toilets, bus stops, underpass / foot over bridges for pedestrians, vending zones, solid waste management transfer station, sanitary landfills and the like.
The cabinet also decided to encourage use of non motorized vehicles for mass public transport like Metro rail, CNG based Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) apart from boosting construction and laying of ring roads and bypass in and around major cities to decongest the crowded commercial and residential pockets of the state.