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Chhattisgarh to Return Unused Land to Farmers in Bastar

Chhattisgarh farmers are finally getting their land that was taken by the government more than a decade ago because it was not used. This is a rare move in a country like India that is riven by conflict over land.

Bhupesh Baghel, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and leader of Congress Party that won state election few days back said he has requested officials to return around 2,000 hectares or 7.7 square miles in Bastar district. Baghel said, "The process of returning land will begin very soon”.

Returning of land is very uncommon in India, where arguments have risen as factories and highways are built in one of the fastest growing economies in the world. According to research organisation, Land Conflict Watch, around 660 disputes over land have delayed hundreds of projects and also compelled millions of people from their farms across the country.  

Chhattisgarh state under the previous BJP government had agreed to allocate land for a Tata Steel factory in Bastar in 2005. But farmers were against giving up their land. Tata Steel had pulled out of the project in the year 2016, citing delays.

Hence the authorities said the land would then go into a land bank for other development projects that will generate jobs in one of poorest states in India.

A lawyer with advocacy Human Rights Law Network in Chhattisgarh, Kishore Narayan said, “Farmers who lost their land have suffered for years and also struggled to make income”. He further told media, "We hope that Chhattisgarh will look into all cases of lands lying idle and return them”.

India has passed several laws to protect the rights of farmers.  For instance, a federal land acquisition law in 2013, passed by Congress, made farmers’ consent compulsory and introduced sufficient compensation and resettlement for those who are affected.

Any land that is unutilised has to be returned to the owners after 5 years, or must go into the state land bank.

The Supreme Court in 2016 had directed the West Bengal government to return land acquired for a Tata Motors factory but was not utilised, after a decade-long battle by the farmers.

In 2017, South Korean steelmaker POSCO had asked Odisha government to take back land given to it for a delayed steel project and return the same to villagers. But the authorities said the land will revert to the state.



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