news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute| February 25, 2014| 3.30 pm IST

Land acquisition in India is governed by Land Acquisition Act, 1894 introduced during the British rule. To remove ambiguity, the UPA-1 government had introduced an Amendment Bill in 2007.

The latest changes introduced by the BJP government in December 2014 to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (Amendment) Act (RFCTLARR) passed in 2013 by the UPA government have been called both ‘anti-poor’ and ‘pro-farmer’, by those on either sides of the fence.

The changes that the BJP has brought in 

Previously, the Act included requiring mandatory 80 per cent consent for land acquisition . However, requirement for both consent and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) has been removed in five sectors mainly national security/defence, rural infrastructure, housing for the poor and industrial corridors and infrastructure and social infrastructure.

Essentially, it means that if land acquisition falls under any of those five categories , government or private companies do not require to get consent in making acquisitions . Also the compensation is given only to the land owner, since SIA used to understand how many people were benefiting from the land has been done away with. 

Rehabilitation and Resettlement packages for those affected are to still prevail. However, the removal of Social Impact Assessment(SIA) for land has essentially reduced the Government’s responsibility in finding out how many people and how exactly they will be affected by an acquisition. 

With no SIA, neither will those dependent on the land other than its owners be identified, nor will they be compensated.

Objection- This will result in profiteering by private interests. Affected people will have no voice in the process and the system will be totally controlled by government and private players.

Even farmer-friendly fertile land (irrigated multi-crop land according to the amendment) can be acquired under the five sectors. 

"Such projects are vital to national security and defence of India including preparation for defence and defence production,” Arun Jaitley had said, justifying the move. 

Land Acquisition

Farmers march to Jantar Mantar protesting against the Land Acquisition Act (Image courtesy: IANS)

Earlier, the Act prohibited the government from acquiring land for private hospitals, private educational institutions and private hotels. However, the definition of ‘public purpose’ which was earlier restricted to mining, roads. defense, etc. has been redefined to include private hospitals and educational institutions; the word 'private company' replaced with 'private entity'.

Objection- Section 1(2)(b), to which the 80% clause does not apply, permits the government to engage in "partial" acquisition of land for a private party. The term "partial" is not defined. So if a private party acquires 100 acres and asks the government to acquire 3000 acres, 80% consent is not required, so long as the project is for "industrialisation or urbanisation" (a public purpose under s. 2(y)(ii)) and can be considered a project of the government says Campaign for Survival and Dignity.

Additionally, a five year time limit to prevent public/private players from sitting on projects endlessly has been lifted; meaning that the earlier rule for time-bound utilisation of the land which allowed the land to go back to its original owners if unused will be lifted. 

The extension or rather complete removal of a gestation period for projects was explained in the ordinance as “a period specified for setting up of nay project or for five years, whichever is later,” reported Economic Times.

What according to the govt is the ‘pro-farmer’ part of the Act?

Five sectors have been excluded from the consent clause. But the government says it has attempted to balance the equation by allowing 13 excluded Acts to be included under the Land Acquisition Act. 

While earlier lands acquired under these 13 Acts provided no options for rehabilitation, resettlement and compensation, now however, it will be available under the new Act. But consent and SIA are not applicable now.

The original Land Acquistion Bill had made it mandatory for at least requiring 70 per cent mandatory consent for Public Private Partnership(PPP) projects and 80 per cent consent for private companies. 


Land Acquisition Arun Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley along with other BJP parliamentarians after a meeting on the land acquisition ordinance (Image courtesy: IANS)

Additionally, the compensation as such has not changed as compared to the original bill still defined at four times the market value in rural areas, and twice the market price in urban areas. 

Addressed as a land bill that will help the poor by the Prime Minister, the BJP on Tuesday formed a committee to take in farmers’ inputs in the face of massive opposition against the ordinance in the Lok Sabha. 

Opposition

From the collective voice of dissent on display in the Houses of Parliament, almost everyone except the BJP is against the changes made to the Act. 

Termed as ‘anti-farmer and ‘anti-people’, all opposition parties including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, the CPI(M), Janata Dal ( United), Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party , Telangana Rashtra Samithi and even allies like Shiv Sena and LJP have opposed the amendment.

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