Given the current confrontational mood between industry and agriculture in the matter of acquisition of scarce land for industrial development it is imperative that we look at totally new or untried models. But before we do so let us first define some boundary conditions -- the Lakshman Rekha -- that cannot be transgressed.
- No land must be taken by force even by invoking the principle of Eminent Domain by the State unless it is to be used for a clear public purpose. Land for industry does not fall into the category of public purpose.
- Land owners, farmers or otherwise, must be paid fair market rates and must be allowed to benefit from the appreciation of prices
- Industry must not be penalised by extortionary, black mail practices when they decide to move into a region and seek to acquire land for legitimate economic purposes.
- The role of the Government is to kept to a very minimum since there is no guarantee against a move by politicians and bureaucrats to bend rules and make money at the expense of both farmer and industry ( as has been the case in Rajarhat )
The saddest thing for a small land owner is to have to sell his land at low prices and then seeing a huge appreciation of the land that he does not benefit from.
In this context the following approach can be adopted
- Government must legalize the existence of Land Aggregator Companies (LACs) who will have the right to buy, own, develop and lease/sell large chunks of land in the country, both in the urban as well as in the rural areas.
- The LACs will identify land in the state and go about negotiating with individual land owners and acquiring the land for an appropriate price. This can be cheap land at remote, arid regions or relatively more expensive land in fertile well connected regions -- this is a business decision.
- Once a certain amount of contiguous amount of land has been acquired, it can develop and resell / lease the land at a suitably enhanced price that is determined by the market.
- The payment to the farmer can be in two parts. First there must be an immediate cash component that depends on current perceptions of land price. Second there must be second non-cash component that will be paid in terms of equity shares of the LAC. These shares will be locked in for a minimum period of 10 years and the original land owner can liquidate the same at a price that will reflect the premium that the land commands at a later period of time.
Original land owners will not feel cheated because not only do they get an initial, possibly low, market price but they get to participate in the upside created by the development of the land and the relocation of industry.
One challenge would be the valuation of the locked in LAC shares that will be given to original landowners but this can be addressed through a variety of valuation norms, including listed prices from the stock exchange, that can be arrived at after further discussion.
To prevent abuse and fraud especially in the valuation of shares, the LACs may be put under the supervision of an industry regulator like SEBI, IRDA or TRAI.
I believe that this model is being used in some parts of the country but perhaps not as openly and transparently as described in this note.
( image 'borrowed' from http://www.gurgaonscoop.com/story/2010/1/27/2533/29088 )