Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has urged the Centre to do away with the five-year time frame given to states to get work started on acquired land, failing which they are supposed to return the land to the original owner. Instead, Fadnavis has said the five-year frame should be replaced with the full life cycle of the project.
The recommendation, made at the Niti Aayog meeting held in Delhi earlier this week, was endorsed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Fadnavis said. The CM said the Centre has promised to consider the recommendations and incorporate them through an amendment in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
“Every project has a life cycle, which can be more than five years. Hence, land should be allowed to be retained under the land acquisition act until the full life cycle of the project,” Fadnavis told The Sunday Express.
“At present, land acquired for public welfare projects, if unutilised for five years, has to be returned to the land owners. I believe every project cannot have a uniform five-year ceiling. Instead, I suggested that the five-year cap be replaced with the full life cycle of the project,” he said.
“Often, after acquisition of land…we come across several hurdles, including legal challenges, which lead to inordinate delays. As a result, work on the acquired land may not be visible even though the process is underway. It would not be practical for any administration to complete all projects within five years,” he said.
“I admit the intention in the 2013 act was noble — to check the rampant misuse of the land acquired. But when it comes to execution, we will have to adopt flexibility and a pragmatic approach. Instead of keeping it ambiguous or leaving it to respective states…the Centre should make it the life cycle of the project,” he said.
Fadnavis said Jaitley has promised to “positively consider the suggestions and incorporate the necessary amendments in the coming session”.
According to the ordinance promulgated by the NDA government, the period after which unutilised land needs to be returned has to be five years or the period specified at the time of setting up the project.
The 2013 Act states that if land remains unutilised for five years, it has to be returned to the land owners.
At the meeting, Fadnavis said the original Land Acquisition Act was unjust to states since, under section 105, central projects like highway and coal were exempt from social impact assessment and consent clause. But similar state projects were forced to go through SIA and consent clause, leading to delays.
He lauded the amended ordinance of 2015, which empowers states to take up rural infrastructure, schools and hospitals without seeking SIA and consent clause.
The state government has also conveyed to the Centre its decision to provide maximum possible compensation to farmers.
The state government has evolved a model that allows direct purchase of land by offering four times its value in rural Maharashtra. In semi-urban areas, the land price is 3.2 times its value, while in urban areas, it is 2 times its value.