THE EMINENT DOMAIN OF LAND ACQUISITION: AN EMBEDDED INSTRUMENT OF ECONOMIC EXCLUSION
Author’s Name : Dr Mohammad Israr Khan
Volume 02 Issue 02 ISSN No: 2349-7289 Page no: 1-7
Abstract – The original and incontestable power of the state to acquire private property for any assigned purpose is known as the eminent domain (ED). Starting from the twin principles of ‘public purpose’ and ‘just compensation’ the doctrine has come to a stage where neither of the two remain inviolable components of the same. ED has become a matter of convenience to the state for novel purposes like economic growth, development, fiscal interest, job creation, employment, private business etc. Also, it seems to have shun the accountability to the land losers.
Land is a basic factor of production and thereby a major component in capital formation and GDP growth. For an unhindered expansion of capital, land availability along with supply of labour must come forth to facilitate smoother rates of growth of output and development. So goes the economic logic. However, at the heydays of neo-liberalism, state assisted, nay mandated, acquisition of land for its coerced supply to industrial and commercial sectors becomes a matter of policy conflict and concern. The eminent domain of land acquisition and displacement (LAD) seems to have become a major policy tool in the neo-liberal rhetoric of the ‘rates’ of economic growth whereby sustenance of growth-rate itself becomes dependent upon the extent and intensity of LAD. The definition of public interest has also assumed a value loaded developmental overtone. On the other hand, the law of land acquisition, including its compensatory dimensions, has virtually failed to incorporate the interest of the affected persons as a constituent part of public interest. It is a sort of a deficit which usually results into erosion of capital base especially for the poor ones for whom land happens to be an exclusive source of survival and sustenance.
The manner and quantum of compensation are the perennial sources of conflict in any instance of land acquisition. Compensation, notwithstanding its multiplicative factor, is never based on any scientific rationality. Rather, the rule of thumb is an inalienable component of the whole exercise. ED does not take into account the socio-economic conditions of the land losers. ‘One size fits all’, however, remains a weaker logic throughout. Resultantly, what is observed, post-acquisition, is the incidence of capital base depreciation, especially, of the small and marginal land owners. The pecuniary compensation fast withers away and in the end the land losers feel cheated and deprived of their means of subsistence for whom the process yields nothing save the economic exclusion. The entire exercise of the eminent domain of land acquisition stands, in its essence, to rob the poor folks, on the one hand and to add to the riches of the rich ones, on the other.
The paper is based upon the observations earned through the participatory research experience in a couple of land acquisition cases for both the public and private purposes. It starts with a discussion of the political economy of the growth process and the role of the state in that process. The concept of ED is introduced followed by a critique of compensation mechanism. Effects of ED are explained through the concept of capital and productive base depreciation of the affected peoples. It is inferred, from the whole discussion, that the ED in most of the cases is a fatal threat to economic inclusiveness to the extent it excludes the land loser and/or the project ousted people from the benefits of economic growth and development by depriving them of the capital and productive entitlements on the one hand and by lessening their capability to gain from the process of growth. In its essence the eminent domain seems to have lost its eminence by becoming an instrument that produces reverse Robin Hood effects.
Keywords –Eminent Domain, Land Acquisition, Economic Exclusion, Compensation, Capital Base Meltdown (CBM)