ISSUES RELATED TO RECENT LAND ACQUISITION BILL & ORDINANCE
Issues related to Recent Land Acquisition Bill & Ordinance
- Land acquisition in India is governed by The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which came into force from 1 January 2014.
- Till 2013, land acquisition in India was governed by Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
- On 31 December 2014, the new government in India passed an ordinance with an official mandate to “meet the twin objectives of farmer welfare; along with expeditiously meeting the strategic and developmental needs of the country”.
- The government passed Land Acquisition Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha on 10 March 2015.
- The Bill was intended to replace the ordinance promulgated by the government in December 2014, which had brought changes in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (Amendment) Act (RFCTLARR) passed in 2013 by the UPA government.
- Recently the Land Ordinance was lapsed as it was not renewed by the Central Government.
Some amendments in the Bill which had become a bone of contention :
- Excluded Acts brought under the RFCTLARR Act: According to the Act 2013, 13 Acts were excluded from the RFCTLARR Act but with the new ordinance they were now brought under its purview. Thus, it brought the compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement provisions of these 13 laws in consonance with the Act.
- Removal of consent clause in five areas: The ordinance removed the consent clause for acquiring land for five areas –
- industrial corridors
- public private partnership projects
- rural infrastructure
- affordable housing
- The ordinance also exempted projects in these five areas from Social Impact Assessment and acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land and other agricultural land, which earlier could not be acquired beyond a certain limit.
- 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 erstwhile ordinance the period after which unutilised land needs to be returned was five years, or any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.
- Time frame: The ordinance stated that if the possession of acquired land under Act 1884 is not taken for reasons, then the new law will be applied.
- Word ‘private company’ replaced with ‘private entity’: While the Act 2013 stated that the land can be acquired for private companies, the ordinance replaced it with private entity. A private entity is an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organisation, or other entity under any other law.
- Offence by government officials: If an offence is committed by a government official or the head of the department, then s/he cannot be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the government.
Positive and negative clauses of the new Land Acquisition Amendment Bill:
- The existing Act kept 13 most frequently used acts for Land Acquisition for Central Government Projects out of the purview. These acts are applicable for national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects, electricity related projects, etc. The present amendments bring all those exempted from the 13 acts under the purview of this Act for the purpose of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement. Therefore, the amendment benefits farmers and affected families.
- The proposed changes in the Land Acquisition Act would allow a fast track process for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including projects taken up under Public Private Partnership mode where ownership of the land continues to be vested with the government.
- As per the changes brought in the Ordinance, multi-crop irrigated land can also be acquired for purposes like national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and building social infrastructure.
- The original Land Acquisition Act, 2013 had a consent clause for acquiring land – industrial corridors, Public Private Partnership projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. But after the central government changed, it exempted these five categories from the rule of acquitting land in the Bill tabled on February 24.
- Social assessment which was mandatory before acquitting land has also been exempted in the Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha.
- As per the existing law, land will be given back to the farmer if it remains unused for five years. The proposed amendment says the land will be returned only if the specified project on the land fails to complete the deadline.
- Bureaucrats will be punished if found guilty of violating any clause of the existing Land Act. However, the new clause makes government sanction necessary to prosecute civil servants.
Downside of Land Acquisition in India:
- Eminent domain doctrine has been widely used in India since the era of Independence, with over 21.6 million people in the period of 1951-90.
- They have been displaced with large-scale projects like dams, canals, thermal plants, sanctuaries, industrial facilities, and mining. These occurrences are generally categorized as “development-induced displacement”.
- The process of land acquisition in India has proven unpopular with the citizenry. The amount reimbursed is fairly low with regard to the current index of prices prevailing in the economy.
- Furthermore, due to the low level of human capital of the displaced people, they often fail to find adequate employment.
- The draft of the government’s National Policy for Rehabilitation states that a figure around 75% of the displaced people since 1951 are still awaiting rehabilitation.
- However, it should be noted that displacement is only being considered with regard to “Direct Displacement”. These rehabilitation policies do not cover fishermen, landless laborers, and artisans.
- Roughly one in ten Indian tribals is a displaced person. Dam projects have displaced close to a million Adivasis, with similar woe for displaced Dalits. Some estimate suggests 40 percent of displaced people are of tribal origins