KASARAGOD: Kasaragod district collector Bhandari Swagat Ranveerchand rejected the petitions of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to lower the compensation awarded to people who gave up their land and houses for the widening of NH-66.
The collector's order also reverses the decision of her predecessor D Sajith Babu who unilaterally brought down the base price of the acquired land in Kasaragod village to Rs 10,229 per square metre or Rs 4.14 lakh per cent from Rs 13,776 per sqm or Rs 5.58 lakh per cent. "The collector's decision is a big relief to us," said MN Prasad, who is losing a commercial building to the NH widening project.
In Kasaragod town, plots are sold for around Rs 10 lakh to Rs 14 lakh per cent. "So when the previous collector reduced the base price from Rs 5.58 lakh to Rs 4.14 lakh, we were in for a shock," said Ranganath Mallya, a member of the committee of Sri Varadaraja Venkataramana Temple.
The temple is losing a commercial building on 575 sqm or 14.21 cents at Karanthakad in the town. /;Several of us even moved the district court against the previous collector’s decision," he said. The Competent Authority for Land Acquisition (CALA), who is usually a deputy collector from the Department of Revenue is authorised by the NHAI to arrive at a fair value for land to be acquired.
The CALA discovers the base price of land by taking the average of the top land transactions in the particular village in the three preceding years. In 2013, the competent authority valued the land in Kasaragod village at Rs 13,776 per sqm and several land losers were compensated at that price.
According to the land acquisition rule, land losers are given the base price plus 100 per cent of the base price as solatium. So, at Rs 13,776 per sq m, land losers in Kasaragod village would be getting Rs 10.83 lakh per cent. They are also entitled to get a 12 per cent interest rate on the base price and the solatium from the date of notification.
NHAI's Kozhikode-based project director Nirmal Zade, however, concluded that the base price arrived at by the CALA was exorbitant in Kasaragod village and petitioned the arbitrator, who is the district collector, to reduce the compensation.
In February 2021, the then collector Sajith Babu concluded the arbitration and reduced the base price to Rs 10,229 per sq m. "He did not give us any reason for reducing the base price and so we moved the court," said Mallya.
Encouraged by the favourable order, the NHAI's project director Zade petitioned the arbitrator for a reduction in compensation in other villages such as Adukathbayal, Kanhangad, and Nileshwar.
Zade also petitioned the arbitrator-cum-collector to recover the "excess" compensation given to landlosers in Kasaragod village. But the new collector Bhandari rejected NHAI’s petitions and upheld the base price discovered by the Competent Authority of Land Acquisition (CALA).
The collector said she visited around 13 to 15 plots in Kasaragod and Nileshwar revenue villages that were used as references to calculate the base price. "I found that the base prices fixed by the CALA were lower than the rate of comparable plots. The cheaper plots were farther away from the highway," she said.
Bhandari said her assessment has implications for around 60 to 63 landowners. "We are drafting the orders in these cases. We will give written orders in all cases in a month. However, I have orally passed orders upholding the valuations of CALA," the collector said.