[Polity] Land Acquisition Bill

What is Land Acquisition ?

  • Land acquisition in India refers to the process of land acquisition by the central or state government of India for various infrastructure and economic growth initiatives. Several controversies have arisen with claims than land owners have not been adequate compensated.

  • Land acquisition is the forcible take-over of privately owned land by the government. This is not the same as purchase of land, in which case the land owner does not have a compulsion to part with the land.
  • Currently, land may be acquired by the central or state government for government projects, public-private partnership projects, and private projects which serve a ‘public purpose’. Public purpose includes defence, national security, infrastructure (such as roads, airports, water supply pipelines, etc), housing the poor, among others.


      RECENTLY PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE BILL


      After the Modi government took over in May 2014 , it decided to make some amendments in the bill which have become bone of contention . According PRS Legislative Research , these are :
      1. Excluded Acts brought under the RFCTLARR:According to the act 2013 , 13 Acts were excluded from the RFCTLARR Act but with new ordinance they are now brought under its purview.Thus , it brings the compensation , rehabilitation and resettlment provisions of these 13 laws in consonance with Act.
      2. Removal of consent in five areas :- The ordinance removes the consent clause for acquiring land for five areas - industrial corridors  , public private partnership projects , rural infrastructure , affordable housing and defence .
      3. Return of unutilised land :- According to the Act 2013 , if the land remains unutilised for five years , then it needs to be returned to the owner. But according to the ordinance , the period after which unutilised land needs to be returned will be five years , or any period specified at the time of setting up the project , whichever is later.
      4. Time for frame :The ordinance states that if the possesion of acquired land under Act 1894 is not taken for reasons , then the new law will be applied. 
      5. Word " private company ' replaced with " private entity " 
      6. Offence by government officials :- If an offence is commited by a government official or the head of the department , then she / he cannot be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the government.


        What were the major shifts from the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 to the LARR Act, 2013?


        • The LARR Act, 2013 was enacted in January 2014, and replaced the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Major shifts from the 1894 Act to the LARR Act, 2013 include:
        • Compensation :The 1894 Act required that compensation of 1.3 times the price of land be given to land owners. The LARR Act, 2013 provides for compensation of 2 times the price of land for urban areas, and of 2 to 4 times the price of land in rural areas.
        • Rehabilitation and resettlement : While the 1894 Act provided compensation to land owners, it did not provide rehabilitation and resettlement to others who were dependent on the land for their livelihood. The LARR Act, 2013 provides for rehabilitation and resettlement for these affected families as well.
        • Consent : The 1894 Act did not require the consent of land owners when land was acquired. However, the LARR Act, 2013 mandates that the consent of 80 per cent of land owners is obtained when land is acquired for private projects and the consent of 70 per cent of land owners is obtained when land is acquired for public-private partnership projects.
        • Social Impact Assessment : Unlike the 1894 Act, the LARR Act, 2013 mandates that a Social Impact Assessment is conducted for all projects, except those exempted through the urgency provision. An SIA is meant to determine whether the project serves a public purpose, and what the social impact of the acquisition of land could be on affected families.
        • Restrictions on irrigated multi-cropped land : The LARR Act, 2013 imposes certain limits on the amount of irrigated multi-cropped land which may be compulsorily acquired.


        Removal of consent clause and Social Impact Assessment


        • The government has amended Section 10(A) of the Act to expand sectors where assessment and consent will not be required. For five sectors, the consent clause has been removed. So the government or private individuals/companies will no longer need mandatory 80% consent for land acquisition in those five sectors. According to Arun Jaitley, the mandatory "consent" clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and housing for the poor including PPP where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government.
           
          Jaitley said that rehabilitation and resettlement packages will be available as per the new Land Acquisition act. What Jaitley didn't mention was that by omitting the social assessment part, the government in essence has got away with a very important hurdle. In the earlier law, the assessment was meant to find out how many people will be impacted. So apart from the land owner, all those who are dependent on the land also needed to be compensated. But the new ordinance ensures that only land owners will be compensated.
        • Also whether the land is fertile or not will also not be taken into consideration while acquiring it for these five specific sectors. Thus even if the land is extremely fertile like it was the case in Singur, it can be acquired if it fits the criterion of these five sectors, no question asked. 


        'Pro-farmer step'



        • The government has balanced out the ordinance by including 13 so far excluded Acts under the Land Acquisition Act. It is hailed as a pro-farmer move as with this decision, rehabilitation, resettlement and compensation provisions will be applicable for the 13 existing central pieces of legislation. Till now land could be acquired under these Acts and there was no uniform central policy of rehabilitation and resettlement. 

        • These Acts include the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act 1957, the National Highways Act 1956, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885,  Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Indian Tramways Act 1886, the Railways Act 1989, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act 1962 and the Damodar Valley Corporation Act 1948. The Electricity Act 2003, Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act 1952, the Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act 1948 and the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act 1978 are also brought under its purview to provide higher compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers whose land is being acquired.


        Can amended version stand scrutiny?

        The confrontation and controversy over the land acquisition bill continues despite the amended version having been passed by the Lok Sabha. The ordinance brought in by the new government which had amended several provisions of the law enacted in 2013 by the UPA government had faced stiff resistance. Some of the clauses including the one related to Social Impact Assessment had been removed in the ordinance. However, the present government brought in 9 amendments in the Bill before getting it passed in the Lok Sabha. However, the Bill may again face resistance in the Rajya Sabha.


        Changes introduced in the Bill are:
        • Land shall be acquired up to 1 km on both sides of designated railway lines or roads for industrial corridor.
        • Government shall undertake a survey of wasteland and arid land and maintain a record.
        • A provision is included in the Bill for providing employment to project affected families.
        • Hearings to be held in districts where land acquisition takes place.
        • Courts won’t need government nod to take cognisance of offence under CrPC.
        • ‘Five year’ clause for completion of project on acquired land will be augmented and amended by the length of the project. No acquisition will be transferred to private persons.
        • Under section 33 compulsory employment clause shall be inserted.
        • Land acquired for Hospitals, Educational Institutions and other Social Projects will not come under definition of Industrial Corridor.
        • Government to ensure before notification land acquired would be bare minimum required for a project.
        The changes are in addition to the earlier amendments moved through an ordinance where the government had added five sectors (defence, rural infra, affordable housing, industrial corridors, infra and social infra projects including PPP) to a list that would not require owners’ consent while acquiring land as well as exempted them from submitting a social impact assessment (SIA) and removal of restriction on acquisition of multi-crop lands for these sectors. The last social infra projects including PPP have been removed from the exemption list.

        The changes have managed to appease the allies to some extent, but questions remain whether the opposition is willing to relent as most of them walked out during the vote in the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha however it is a different story as the ruling NDA does not enjoy a majority and where the amended Bill is likely to be defeated by an united opposition. The earlier changes or removal of consent clause has been termed anti-farmer, though they are definitely industry-friendly, while removal of SIA will save costs and time both. The main point is that the process should be fair to both farmers as well as the industry.

        Source : PRS , The hindu.

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