On compensation

Imlisanen Jamir

It has long been the government’s narrative that hesitant landowners have become a major stumbling block to the growth and development of Nagaland state by refusing to part with their land.

The argument has been based on the incidences where such obstructionist moves by landowners have indeed crippled efforts to improve or build infrastructure in several parts of the state. However, there seemed to be a growing realization among the people, moving them to accede with land acquisition offers from the state in return for vital infrastructure.

A recent example of this realization was witnessed with the ongoing four-lane roadworks connecting Dimapur and Kohima. While the works have been progressing at sometimes too steady a pace, administrators issued regular notices to concerned communities to collect their compensation for parting with their land.

But just when there seemed to be some semblance of efficiency in the process, a landowners union recently issued a statement that should serve as a caution to the government. Last week, the NH-29 Landowners’ Union (NH-29 LOU) alleged that landowners not being compensated for their land and properties in view of the ongoing expansion of the highway from Purana Bazaar to Chumukedima.

While making clear that they were willing to part with their land situated within the vicinity of the ongoing highway expansion, the union however said they were “appalled at the government’s indifferent attitudes.”

It cited a letter to the Dimapur Revenue Officer (RO), dated May 3, 2005, where the Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had directed the former to a prepare detailed project report on NH-29 for land acquisition from Dimapur to Kohima.

The union however alleged that the road stretch from Purana Bazaar to Chumukedima was excluded “for reasons best known to the Slate government.” It however suspected that the decision to exclude the said stretch from the DPR was a ploy to avoid paying a hefty compensation.

It must be made clear that debates over land acquisition for extractive and for-profit purposes are a completely different matter—especially when there are livelihoods, ways of life and environmental factors at stake.

While there has been understandable frustration resulting out of unflinching landowners, even in cases pertaining to critical infrastructure, the government must make sure that any change in attitudes should not be hindered by shoddy handling of the compensation factor.

It must work towards ensuring that law and regulations, procedure for land acquisition and compensation, and land valuation approaches for compensation are handled in a transparent manner. This includes relevant land governance elements such as public participation, access to information, fair compensation, transparent procedure and stakeholder co-ordination.

Comments can be sent to imlisanenjamir@gmail.com