India needs a comprehensive shift towards better infrastructure, more manufacturing and faster urbanisation, all of which are dependent on the availability of land. The legislation for land acquisition, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, was notified in December 2013. But it is believed to be under review by the new government and rightly so, as many provisions included in the act make land acquisition almost impractical.
The new act, which replaced the 1894 legislation, was expected to cater to development imperatives while also providing a better deal for land-owners and others dependent on the land. However, it only freezes land acquisition through lengthy procedures and the imposition of high costs that render projects unviable.
The CII has taken up the onerous land acquisition legislation with the government over the years, stressing that the principles underlying the process need to promote industrialisation and urbanisation, and that the people impacted by land acquisition must be substantially better off after the process. Land acquisition must be speedy, simple and beneficial for all stakeholders. The issues to be addressed include administrative procedures, the definition of “project-affected families” and their resettlement and rehabilitation, and compensation for land.
Technology and satellite imagery have made it possible to go in for scientific land acquisition, beginning with the identification of fallow and unproductive lands. These should be demarcated for land bank corporations in each state, which would develop infrastructure and offer plots for industrial use in a transparent manner. Digitisation of records must be fast-tracked to introduce transparency and facilitate detailed planning of land use for industrial, agricultural and residential development. Simultaneously, ex ante zoning of land should segregate available land for different purposes over a 100-150-year horizon.
The act mandates consent of 80 per cent of the affected families when land is acquired for private projects. This should be reduced to 60 per cent, irrespective of land use by public or private entities. Moreover, there should be a specific time-frame for the possession of land after the required consent has been obtained so as to avoid prolonging the process by those who did not acquiesce.
Currently, administrative procedures under the act are complex, convoluted and lack clarity. They require multiple public consultations for various environment and forest clearances, lengthy and detailed negotiations, and the setting up of several authorities and groups for different purposes. The flow-chart would take a minimum time of almost five years if the schedules stipulated in the act are adhered to, and more if not.
A socio-economic and cultural profile of the affected area is to be prepared through a social impact assessment (SIA), which would consider land required, alternate land availability, impact on infrastructure, and many other issues. Formal public hearings are to be held to present continued…