The boundaries for acquiring land,sharper and narrower

The Land Acquisition Bill seeks to prevent the recurrence of “historical injustices”.

Written by Ruhi Tewari | Published: September 3, 2013 12:26 am

What was the need for a new law for land acquisition?

The bill recently passed in the Lok Sabha seeks to prevent the recurrence of “historical injustices” and to provide for fair compensation to farmers. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition,Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill,introduced in 2011,was subsequently referred to a standing committee that submitted its recommendations in May last year.

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What were these injustices?

The exisiting Land Acquisition Act,1894,leaves room for forcible acquisition. Its “urgency clause” does not define urgency and leaves the decision to the discretion of the acquiring authority. It does not define “public purpose” either,leaving it to the discretion of the district collector. It is silent on resettlement of those displaced and the compensation rates it prescribes are low.

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How does the bill address the discretionary definitions?

The bill limits the urgency clause to two cases — natural disasters and for national security. It clearly defines “public purposes”,which includes strategic purposes; for railways,highways,ports,power and irrigation for use by government; for project-affected people; for development or improvement of village sites or in urban areas or for providing housing to weaker sections; for public interest such as production of public goods or public services through government,public-private or private projects.

What compensation and rehabilitation does it provide for?

Compensation is up to four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas. Over five chapters deal with “resettlement and rehabilitaion”,with benefits in addition to one-time cash payments.

What else is compulsory?

Consent is required from 70 per cent of the affected families if land is being acquired for a public-private partnership project,and from 80 per cent if it is for a private project.

Will it cover land already acquired?

Only in three cases can it be applied retrospectively: where no award under the 1894 Act has been made,where those affected have not accepted compensation or have not yet given up possession and the proceedings have been pending for five years or more,and where a majority in an affected area have not accepted compensation.

Has has it got political consensus?

The government pushed it through by asking all parties to suggest amendments in writing,and then incorporating some of these,including a few suggested by the BJP and the Left. Since then,the BJP has pushed successfully for more amendments.

What has the BJP got amended?

Before the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha,one BJP demand incorporated was for a provision that allows for leasing of land instead of acquiring it. Another was for land purchased by private entities after September 5,2011 (when the bill was introduced),and subsequently acquired by the government; 40 per cent of the compensation will go to the original owners ,as suggested by the BJP.

What else is being amended?

These relate to irrigation projects and have been proposed by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The government is believed to have accepted these. Once included,these amendments would have to be put to vote in the Lok Sabha once again.

How does industry view the bill?

It claims the legislation will push up land prices and delay development,as acquisition and rehabilitation will be costlier. Industry is also upset with the consent clause; it finds the mandatory minimum of families too high.

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