Nitika Dhingra


Nitika Dhingra is a PhD candidate and a Senior Research Fellow (UGC) at Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Previous academic pursuits include M.Phil. from the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU and Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Delhi. She worked on M.Phil. dissertation titled, ‘ Political Economy of Land Acquisition Law in India: The Interplay of Efficiency and Justice’. Currently, her PhD research engages with parliamentary debates and judicial decision-making concerning land acquisition for a public purpose in South Asia. Broadly, her research includes political economy, sociology of law and politics of development.


Legal-Institutional Dimensions of Land Acquisition in India: The Interplay of Efficiency and Justice

Large-scale land acquisitions, or land grabbing, especially for resource extraction, have recently escalated across the developing world and has become particularly significant in India. With the dawn of a new era of developmental history from the 1980s onwards, India embraced globalisation. The role of private enterprises to conduct their business with minimal strictures on their operations escalated, which significantly enlarged the scale of land acquisition. The conflicting interests of farmers, peasants and indigenous people resulted in resistance due to different expected returns from the land acquisition. So to address both the concerns of the dispossessed and private investors, the State adopted the new land acquisition law in the form of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCTLARR), 2013. The stated objective is not only to overcome the ambiguities and massive mismanagement associated with large-scale acquisition purported by the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 but also to address the two concerns of efficiency and justice, which in this view is not mutually exclusive. The historical trajectory of accumulation and increased interest to acquire land for the ‘public purpose’ importantly draws attention to how the State unfolds amidst ”competing for interest”. The State often institutionalises various course of action by law and sometimes even used it as a recourse to seek relief from these results. With an inclination to understand the ‘land’ in one-dimension, that is, a dehumanised and impersonal abstract entity, and by employing the concept of ‘efficiency’, the policy-makers tilts towards mere price signals. And if ”efficiency” is the primary goal driving land acquisition laws, does it require a revision of the idea of justice? The interplay of ‘efficiency’ and ‘justice’ debates and its philosophical underpinnings necessitates one to examine the social, cultural and historical, that is, to what extent conceptual categories are inclusive of spatial and temporal diversities in the life of people and nations. This paper examines the political economy of land acquisition law and judicial decision-making in the context of ‘efficiency’ and ‘justice’ debates, which can highlight a series of interrelationships between the State and the market in capitalism.

Affiliation: Jawaharlal Nehru University