Why returning land to farmers after acquiring it for Biz doesn’t make sense

The State Cabinet has on Wednesday resolved to return the 2,180 acres of land notified for acquisition for the Kakinada Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) to farmers. It is probably the second such instance in the country after Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal, where the lands notified for the Special Economic Zones were returned to the farmers following their opposition to the projects.
“People of six villages — Srirampuram, Bandipeta, Mummidivaripodu, Pativaripalem, Ravivaripodu and Ramaraghavapuram — need not be vacated as proposed by the previous government. Further, all burial grounds taken away from these villages will be returned. Moreover, the restrictions imposed on land transactions in these villages under 22A of the Registration Act will be lifted,” the YSRCP government informed. 
Returning lands a populist measure?

However, not everyone is happy with this decision of returning lands. Opinions from several quarters are voicing out concerns about why land acquired (and left isolated) may not be productive or profitable for farmers and hence, may not help the cause. 
A similar stunt was tested by the YSRCP government in Amaravati where thousands of farmers donated their lands for the capital. However, in case of Amaravati, the YSRCP suffered a severe backlash which was unexpected and hence, left the farmers in the lurch after their lands were used and now, remain isolated and not worthy of farming. 
A 10-year land conflict 
In the late ’90s, Kakinada Seaports Limited (KSPL), which was managing Kakinada Deep Water Port, as part of its expansion plan proposed the multi-purpose Special Economic Zone abutting the seaport.  The then TDP government cleared the SEZ proposal, which was later sanctioned. The process of land acquisition for the SEZ was taken up by the subsequent Congress government as per the Centre’s decision.
More than 10,000 acres of land was notified for the SEZ in U Kothapalli and Thondangi mandals of East Godavari district. Some land was acquired by the State government and provided it to the KSPL and some portion of land was privately acquired by the company. 
Meanwhile, there was a stiff resistance to the SEZ and some farmers even took legal recourse, while some refused to give up their lands under any circumstances. In 2011, the KSEZ became a subsidiary of GMR company. In 2012, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu supported the agitation of farmers and promised to protect their lands. A compensation hike for the land was proposed but farmers continued ploughing the notified land.
Plain optics or hidden land deal?

Now, with Jagan announcing that his government will return the lands, both farmers and the business of Kakinada Port will go down. It remains to be seen who will be the real beneficiaries of this deal in the long-term. For now, rumours are rife that these lands will be gobbled up by the YSRCP leaders and it is a tactic to make the deal look like the TDP hasn’t done good for farmers. 
Going by the optics of this plan, it surely looks like the YSRCP’s branding and PR exercise is working well on all sections of people in the state. 

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