Manipulation of Land Acquisition Act and its implications for ordinary citizens

Manipulation of Land Acquisition Act and its implications for ordinary citizens

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By Karim Dad                                                                      

After fifteen years of intensive research, Professor Daron Acemough of MIT University & James A. Robinson of Harvard University, have co-authored a book titled “Why Nations Fail-The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty”.

They have reached to the conclusion that rich nations across the globe have been successful in establishing inclusive institutions. On the contrary, poor nations created extractive institutions or parasite institutions which rely on ordinary citizens’ blood to live an affluent life and remain beyond the reach of the law.

Inclusive institutions establish political and economic systems, which in turn, offer a conducive and enabling environment for every individual to grow and prosper on equitable basis irrespective of their economic or social background. They protect life and property, personal freedom and dignity, thoughts and ideas. Divergent to this notion, extractive institutions retain political power and economic opportunities amongst themselves at the cost of the whole society and are above the law. The conclusion is that prosperity or poverty of nations is due not to favorite climate and geography or culture but institutions.

The purpose of highlighting the findings of the book is to narrate and link a story of land acquisition case for the purpose of construction of offices and residential accommodation of a revered public institution, entrusted with the task of ensuring justice, in Aliabad, Hunza, and to highlight how the affectees were deprived of their precious asset most suitable for commercial and residential purpose, located in commercial area on College Road opposite Government College Aliabad, Hunza. The plots belonged to four owners, among them a widow and her nine years old son.

The Initial acquisition process was started in 2011 without even informing the landowners. In response to the notice section 4, and other proceeding notices issued, the target families strongly opposed the acquisition of the land in question for the reasons that they had no any alternate land for their residential purposes. We further demanded for granting alternate land of similar nature, in the locality of said land, in case of compulsory acquisition. When the authorities showed their inability for the provision of alternate land, the affectees, as an option of last resort, demanded payment of full compensation as per the prevailing market value of the commercial plot of land.

Both, the pleas to either abandon acquistion of the land or to provide alternate land of a similar location and value, were turned down. The landowners lost the battle to secure their rightful property after a painful five years long struggle when an award was passed by completely setting aside all the documented evidences – thus depriving from being awarded the compensation in the light of prevailing market value of the lands.

To inflict maximum loss upon the landowners, their single consolidated plots were further bifurcated into commercial and non commercial parts, despite the fact that the entire land was situated in one place in the form of a consolidated single plot and an entire acquired plot was situated within the commercial area, being adjacent to Government Degree College on College Road.

The rates of the commercial lands in Aliabad, at the time of acquiring of the lands, were between 60,00,000/ to 120,00,000/ per Kanal, based on dozens of sale deeds made and were available with the revenue department.

The compensation determined by the collector was seven to ten times lower than the prevailing market value then. Even in peripheries of Aliabad, there wasn’t any evidence of such a low value of land.

Aliabad is rapidly emerging into a city and in the near future value of the lands of the affectees may have increased exponentially. Moreover, the commercial plots of the affectees were highly suitable for a commercial market or an industrial unit, but due to forcible acquisition of the said land, the landowners were deprived from the future potential value of the acquired land and shattering dreams of a prosperous future.

Acquiring lands from landowners for public purposes is a universal phenomenon but there are certain laws and transparent procedures to determine fair compensation so that the affectees should not suffer due to loss of their property. In civilized societies there are clearly stated roadmaps for their rehabilitation. The affected families never expected that they will be rundown in such a divergent way. We were optimistic that in the light of given grievances and solid evidences of transactions in commercial areas in Aliabad, they will be fairly treated but that did not happen unfortunately.

Whatever is being built at the site, it will always be a symbol of exploitation, coercion and manipulation from the standpoint of the affected families, and the locals who are aware of this injustice, today and in future.

The contributor is a teacher and social worker, and one of the affectees of the story narrated above. 

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Pamir Times is the pioneering community news and views portal of Gilgit – Baltistan, Kohistan, Chitral and the surrounding mountain areas. It is a voluntary, not-for-profit, non-partisan and independent venture initiated by the youth.