Posco, the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India at $12 billion (Rs 54,000 crore), has offered the largest ever compensation package in the country for the displaced and landless farmers.
The Rs 400 crore compensation — part of its estimated project cost — announced by Posco India for Orissa, is expected to benchmark industry relief in the country. The package will benefit over 2000 encroachers and landless labourers at the Posco site.
While Rs 100 crore will be provided for the acquisition of government and private land, Rs 100 crore will be given towards building a rehabilitation colony and Rs 200 crore as compensation to encroachers of government land.
The move – including encroachers of government land and landless labourers earning their livelihood from the area – was beyond the prescription of the state or national rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) policies.
While fixing the price of private land at Rs 17 lakh per acre, the Rehabilitation and Periphery Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC) for the Posco project announced a compensation of Rs 11.5 lakh an acre for the loss of betel vines, most of which are on government land. There are about 1,877 betel vines in the site covering 300 acres.
Landless labourers working in the betel vines will get 20 per cent of the total compensation for the loss, which is over and above the amount paid to the owners of the areas where betel is grown.
Similarly, RPDAC has prescribed assistance of Rs 2 lakh per acre for owners of the prawn gheris — most of which are operating on government land — and Rs 1 lakh an acre for farmers using government land for agriculture.
In a never-before step, the South Korean steel giant's package will pay an unemployment allowance of Rs 2,250 a month to the landless labourers, who will lose their livelihood following the acquisition, till they are provided job by the company. Capping it all, RPDAC has decided to provide alternative housing to families who had encroached and built their houses on government land.
In comparison, the compensation package for sharecroppers or landless labourers in Bengal's Singur was 25 per cent of what the land owner received — for a single-crop Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh for double-crop farmland. In Nayachar, the West Bengal government had promised to rehabilitate 100-150 fishermen families who had encroached upon government land — the site for a chemical hub.
The rate is also more than what neighbouring Chhattisgarh is offering. The government there recently hiked the compensation to Rs 10 lakh for an acre for two-crop farmland, Rs 8 lakh an acre for single-crop un-irrigated land and Rs 6 lakh for barren land.
Like in Singur and other protests against land acquisition in the country, encroachers and landless labourers formed the core of the anti-Posco agitation. But, by offering substantial benefits to this section, the Posco management seems to have taken the wind out of the protest to expedite the land acquisition process. The project had hit the wall because of the agitation since the signing of an MoU five years back. Jagatsinghpur district collector Naryan Chandra Jena said notices will be issued for payment of the compensation and to acquire land.
However, the road ahead for the project does not seem to be smooth. Sarpanch of Gadkujang Nakul Sahoo said, “The compensation is not satisfactory. We will urge the company and district authorities to consider a higher compensation in another RPDAC meeting.”
Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti leader Abhya Sahoo criticised the administration for finalising the package without consulting the affected persons. “We had asked the chief minister to visit the place to understand the ground reality, but he did not turn up.”