Thursday, April 23, 2015

Land Bill Being Shelved

The Modi govt is shelving the Land Acquisition Bill after political opponents have pounced upon the issue and raised increasing outcry over it.

I feel that the Modi govt should have taken the approach of handing over more control of land policy to the states. Then states with a more forward and progressive outlook could move to develop themselves faster, while states with a more regressive outlook (bimarus) could be left to lag behind. The states more amenable to change would reap the rewards sooner, while the laggard states would suffer the consequences and feel more pressure to catch up.

Modi has often spoken of empowering the states and involving the states, but on the land issue he seems to have conspicuously ignored his own advice. Maybe his rock-concert-tours abroad have misled him into believing that he can change India purely through the force of personal charisma, but he is now receiving a rude dose of reality. He does not have the personal force to just hoist up the entire country and raise the Titanic in one heave. UPA govt created this issue with its 2013 land act, and Modi should have sidestepped this trap just as was done with MNREGA. With over 55% of the population getting subsistence through farming, this powerfully large interest group should have been seen as a dangerous Kumbakarna to awaken.The govt had better figure out how to up its game before it completely loses momentum and gets bogged down by an obstructionist opposition who are as unscrupulous as Taliban spreading fear and lies against polio vaccinations.


non-carborundum said...

Modi risks turning into Obama with his epoch-making speeches. A lower profile would suit him better now. I am ambivalent on the land acquisition bill. Maybe devolution of powers to state governments is the answer, but this isn't exactly the US.

san said...

Well, I'm worried that we're heading towards "India Shining" 2.0 -- and that didn't work at all for getting re-elected. If this stuff has to get done state-wise in the near/medium term, then so be it, as long as we can get more growth done sooner.

What if oil prices start to rebound? With the uptick in conflict in the Middle East, the current price relaxation may end, and we'll be back to Square 1. This "creative incrementalism" presumes that we'll just happily continue getting breathing space on oil prices, etc - but that may be an overoptimistic assumption.

Rahul said...

I am not very familiar with the Land Bill but if the centre were to leave it to the states to acquire land for projects, wouldn't that mean that interstate roads, railways and waterways would not get a respite?

san said...

It might take a piecemeal approach - creating separate legislation for doing interstate roads, railways, waterways, etc. Absence of interstate roads would mean that lagging bimaru states would suffer even more handicap, thus putting them under even more pressure to catch up. Adjacent progressive states could fast-track their interstate roads, etc. Let those who are progressive move faster and reap the rewards, let those who are regressive lag and face the consequeces. The main result is that overall net growth would go up more, and the obstructionists would become owners of their own difficulties.